Former US President Trump paid no income tax in 2020: Report

Records released by a US congressional committee reveal Trump used business losses to offset his tax liability.

A view of the House Ways and Means Committee panel
The Democrat-led Ways and Means Committee in the US House of Representatives voted late on December 20, 2022, to release tax records pertaining to former US President Donald Trump [Andrew Harnik/AP]

Former United States President Donald Trump paid no income tax during the final full year of his presidency as he reported a loss from his sprawling business interests, according to tax figures released by a congressional panel.

The records show Trump’s income and his tax liability fluctuated dramatically during his four years in the White House. They were released late on Tuesday by the Democratic-led Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives after a years-long court fight.

The records cut against the Republican’s long-cultivated image as a successful businessman as he mounts another White House bid.

Trump and his wife, Melania, paid some form of tax during all four years, the documents showed, but were able to minimize their income taxes in several years as revenue from Trump’s businesses was more than offset by his tax deductions and losses.

The committee questioned the legitimacy of some of those deductions, including one for $916m, and its members said the tax returns were short on details. The panel is expected to release redacted versions of his full returns in the coming days.

Trump refused to make his tax returns public during his two presidential campaigns even though all other major-party presidential candidates have done so for decades.

The committee voted on Tuesday to make them public. A Trump spokesman called the release of the documents politically motivated.

“If this injustice can happen to President Trump, it can happen to all Americans without cause,” Trump Organization spokesman Steven Cheung said on Wednesday.

Democrats on the panel said their review found that tax authorities did not properly scrutinize Trump’s complex tax returns to ensure accuracy.

Although the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is supposed to audit presidents’ tax returns each year, it did not do so until Democrats pressed for action in 2019.

The IRS assigned only one agent to the audit most of the time, the panel found, and did not examine some of the deductions claimed by Trump.

The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prior to taking office, Trump reported heavy losses from his businesses for many years to offset hundreds of millions of dollars in income, according to media reports and trial testimony about his finances.

The documents released by the committee showed that pattern continued during his four years in the White House.

During that time, Trump and his wife were liable for self-employment and household employment taxes. As a result, they paid a total of $3m in taxes over those four years.

But deductions enabled them to minimize their income tax liability in several years.

In 2017, Trump and his wife reported adjusted gross income of negative $12.9m, leading to a net income tax of $750, the records showed.

They reported adjusted gross income of $24.3m in 2018 and paid a net tax of $1m while in 2019, they reported $4.4m of income and paid $134,000 in taxes.

In 2020, they reported a loss of $4.8m and paid no net income tax.

Source: Reuters