House Democrats just set a precedent that will surely come back to haunt them. Using the power of the House Ways and Means Committee, they recently obtained and publicly released former President Donald Trump’s tax returns from 2015 to 2020. They did so because Trump refused to release his tax returns, like most presidential candidates do, and in hopes of somehow embarrassing or incriminating him.
It backfired spectacularly. Here’s what the returns showed , according to CNBC:
- Trump and his wife Melania declared negative income of $31.7 million, and taxable income of $0, on their 2015 return. They paid $641,931 in federal income taxes.
- On their 2016 return, the Trumps declared negative income of $32.2 million, and again recorded $0 of taxable income. They paid $750 in taxes.
- Trump and his wife declared $12.8 million in negative income in the 2017 return, with $0 in taxable income. They again paid $750 in taxes.
- The 2018 return showed a rosier picture for the Trumps’ finances: they declared $24.4 million in total income, and $22.9 million in taxable income. They paid $999,466 in federal income taxes.
- Trump and his wife declared $4.44 million in total income, along with $2.97 million in taxable income, on their 2019 return. They paid $133,445 in taxes.
- The 2020 return declared negative income of $4.69 million and no taxable income. They paid no tax and claimed a refund of $5.47 million.
Basically, the returns revealed that Trump claimed large losses from his various real estate and investment properties and declared this “negative income” to avoid paying much federal income tax over the five-year period, despite his self-declared wealth. In other words, he used perfectly legal deductions and loopholes in the tax code to pay as little in taxes as he could get away with under the law.
Shocking! Who wouldn’t want as little of their money stolen and wasted as possible?
It’s ironic, too, because the members of Congress complaining about Trump using tax loopholes are responsible for the tax code. Many of them have been in office for decades and could have changed these loopholes at any time. They didn’t do so because their donors and allies benefit too, but now they want to pretend it’s outrageous that Trump made use of them.
Yet what’s more important is what Trump’s tax returns did not show: any corrupt connection to Russia. Democrats for years suggested that the real reason Trump wouldn’t release his tax information was because it would show that Putin had something on him.
Just for an example, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in 2018, “The president has refused to release his tax returns, but these bizarre actions that he has taken, which seem so to indicate that President Putin has something over President Trump, something personal, and it might be financial. We need to see the tax returns.”
Well, now we have them, and Trump’s tax returns show nothing of the sort. It’s not exactly new at this point for Democratic warnings about Trump-Russia collusion to later prove baseless, but it’s still worth revisiting just how far removed from reality their claims were.
Yes, the tax returns did show that while in office, Trump held foreign bank accounts and his businesses conducted business internationally. But that’s not a surprise. The public elected him in part because he was a successful international businessman; what else would you then expect?
There’s one more funny twist to the Trump tax returns. They show that after the GOP’s 2017 tax reform legislation, Trump’s taxes actually went up. You know, the same tax bill the Democrats constantly decry as a giveaway to the rich! Why? Well, because the GOP pared back a loophole that mostly benefits middle-and-upper class people in blue states with high local taxes, and Trump, as a New York taxpayer, was adversely affected.
That’s right: Democrats broke precedent to release Trump’s taxes and came up with nothing except a few revelations that undercut their arguments.
And now Republicans are already talking about using this power to go after Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s tax returns. So, it seems like Democrats are going to live to regret this boneheaded abuse of their power sooner than they think.