News and Commentary

NYT Trump Tax Report Reveals No Previously Unreported Russian Connections
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Briefing Room of the White House on September 27, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Among the many findings in The New York Times’ analysis of tax documents relating to President Donald Trump is the “revelation” that the records do not “reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.”

This would come as a shock to those who have long claimed sketchy business dealings between Trump and Russia would be the president’s downfall. The only Russia angle the Times was able to find in the documents it analyzed pertained to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Trump, as co-owner of the pageant, made $2.3 million from the event, which was underwritten by the shady Agalarov family, which lost money on the deal.

From Trump and NBC, the pageant was lucrative:

That is borne out by the tax records. They show that in 2013, the pageant reported $31.6 million in gross receipts — the highest since at least the 1990s — allowing Mr. Trump and his co-owner, NBC, to split profits of $4.7 million. By comparison, Mr. Trump and NBC shared losses of $2 million from the pageant the year before the Moscow event, and $3.8 million from the one the year after.

Beyond the Russia information, the Times analysis twists, downplays, and ignores that Trump paid tens of millions of dollars in taxes over the years. He was able to get much of that money back due to the tax code and the nature of his business — real estate development and investment. For example, Trump paid $95 million in federal income taxes over 18 years from “The Apprentice.” The Times notes that he recouped most of that money from a $72.9 million refund that is the subject of a decade-long audit. Even with the refund, that leaves more than $20 million in federal income taxes over 18 years.

The Times also explained that in 2016 and 2017, Trump requested an extension to file his main tax form 1040, but each time he paid what he thought he might owe in taxes – “$1 million for 2016 and $4.2 million for 2017,” the Times reported. The outlet reported that “virtually all of that liability was washed away when he eventually filed, and most of the payments were rolled forward to cover potential taxes in future years.” This means the IRS kept the $1 million and $4.2 million that Trump paid during those years — he did not get it back. The $750 figure being cited by media outlets is in addition to what he already paid in taxes; it is not his total tax payments for the year. Trump also paid $24.3 million between 2000 and 2017 due to the alternative minimum tax.

It should also be noted the troubling aspect of how the Times obtained the private information on Trump. The outlet reported that it received the information from sources with legal access to it, but it may be illegal for those sources to provide it to the Times.  Another concern is the Times’ acknowledgment that it poured through “years of employee compensation information.” Trump may be fair game, but it’s a more difficult argument to suggest the Times should be able to look at employee compensation.

At another point in the article, the Times acknowledged that it wasn’t even able to verify all of the information it had received — only “portions.”

Alan Garten, an attorney for the Trump Organization, told the Times that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and repeatedly requested the documents for which the report was based. The Times refused.

“Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015,” Garten said in a statement, adding that the Times refused to listen to his explanations and bringing up the curious timing of the article – just a month before the election.

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