What we know about Donald Trump and his taxes so far
Michelle Ye Hee Lee, a Washington Post fact-checker, has a column on Trump’s refusal to release any of his tax returns:
“And as far as the tax returns, as soon as the audits complete, like any lawyer would tell you — Greta Van Susteren, she was going over it a while ago, she’s a lawyer. She said, well, no lawyer would let somebody release a tax return when they’re under audit. It’s a routine audit. I’ve gone through audits, which I think is very unfair, for 15 years. I have friends that are very rich and never get audited. I’m audited every year. Maybe that’s because of politics, who knows.”
— Donald Trump, news conference, July 27, 2016
“Mr. Trump has said that his taxes are under audit and he will not be releasing them.”
— Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, CBS interview, July 27, 2016
We have officially entered the general election campaign, with both major parties’ conventions behind us. For the past four decades, every major-party presidential candidate has released tax returns — and most of them had done so by the time they were officially nominated at the conventions.
That is not the case this year. Donald Trump has consistently refused to release his returns, and there’s no indication he will do so before the election. By contrast, Hillary Clinton has released three decades’ worth of tax returns. Only Jeb Bush had released more tax returns than Clinton out of all the candidates who sought their parties’ presidential nomination this year.
Trump once declared that there’s “nothing to learn” from the returns, which was Four-Pinocchio false. He is now citing a pending Internal Revenue Service audit, even though the first president to release his taxes, Richard Nixon, did so in the middle of an audit. Moreover, Trump has not released his tax returns from before 2009, which are no longer under audit, according to his attorney.
Vice-presidential nominees also have routinely released their tax returns. Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine have not yet released their returns. We have not heard back from the Trump campaign about whether Pence will release his returns; we will update this column if we do. A Clinton campaign official said Kaine “will release his tax returns in the near future.”
Presidential candidates have no legal obligation to release their returns, but there has long been a tradition to do so for the sake of transparency. While Trump has not released the returns, his long history of litigation has given the public a sense of what is in his returns.
Here’s a look at what we know about Trump’s taxes: He did not pay any (or nearly any) income taxes at least five times in the past 40 years.
The earliest record of Trump’s publicly revealed income tax information dates to the late 1970s, when Trump paid no federal income tax for at least two years. Trump’s tax returns, examined by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 1981, showed that he paid $0 in federal income taxes in 1978 and 1979, The Washington Post found. During those two years, he had no federal income tax liability primarily because of the losses he incurred operating his rental properties.
In 1975, 1976 and 1977, Trump did pay federal income taxes, it showed. The breakdown:
- 1975: $76,210 in income; $18,714 in taxes
- 1976: $24,594 in income; $10,843 in taxes
- 1977: $118,530 in income; $42,386 in taxes
- 1978: -$406,379 in income; no taxes
- 1979: -$3,443,560 in income; no taxes
The next record available is from 1984, when Trump also reported no income. In a Daily Beast article, David Cay Johnston wrote about rulings in two tax appeal cases (Trump lost both) that shed new light on Trump’s finances in 1984. (The judges’ rulings in the two cases are embedded at the end of this factcheck.)
In one case, . . .