After four years of both sides agonizing over them, Donald Trump’s taxes have been published. The Times report opens with a simple but scathing statement, that Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016. And another $750 in 2017. This alone is expected to alarm and anger the populist strain of Trump’s own base. Many contractors, construction workers, and other self-employed, blue-collar workers understand having to pay a lot of money in income taxes. And, the average self-employed person would have paid more federal income taxes than the president the year he was running on a populist message. That doesn’t square well with Trump’s image of a self-made businessman who fights for the working class.
The Times’ reporting is a scathing, critical examination of the president’s finances. At one point, the article notes that Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, has been paid thousands of dollars in consulting fees by the federal government. The president wrote off some $72,000 in deductible business expenses for “hair styling” one year, while under audit from the IRS for a $70 million tax refund.
That very tax refund is seen by some as a smoking gun explaining Trump’s desire to be president. After all, he is now the boss of an organization to which he may owe some $100 million. The report also notes that Trump has a habit of underreporting his business’s profits when filing his taxes. This makes his businesses seem far more profitable when seeking loans. This mirrors what the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, said to investigators.
It’s no surprise that the Times placed the most concise indictment of Trump in the front of the report. The president, a supposed real estate mogul and a self-described businessman, paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016. Tax scandals like these can be poison for a political candidate. In the late 70s, Senator Bill Brock faces similar criticism, that he paid shockingly low-income taxes despite his salary.
The senator went on to lose a hotly contested Tennessee election by five points to Al Gore Sr. Gore’s campaign focused heavily on Brock’s taxes, which is a tactic the Biden campaign might employ against Donald Trump in 2020. Joe Biden and Donald Trump are scheduled to have their first presidential debate on Tuesday. It will be moderated by Chris Wallace.