President Trump has refused to release his tax returns, bucking tradition going back four decades. But on Tuesday night, MSNBC announced that it had a copy of the president's 1040 form from 2005.
What we've got is from 2005... the President's 1040 form... details to come tonight 9PM ET, MSNBC.— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) March 15, 2017
Here's what we know about Trump's tax returns:
Has Trump released any tax information?
The White House confirmed Tuesday that Trump paid $38 million in 2005, after having an income of $150 million.
During the campaign, Trump said he would release his taxes once the IRS is done auditing his current return. The IRS says that they have no prohibition on Trump from releasing the information. He has released a candidate financial disclosure form — the same form all candidates for federal office have to file — but that only lists assets and income in broad categories.
Despite winning the election and after assuming office, the president has still not released returns.
What else would the tax returns tell you?
Three things are of most significant interest. First, obviously, since Trump talks a lot about how successful he has been in business, the tax form would show how much money he actually earned each year. Second, the tax forms would show how much Trump gave to charity, which is a big deal because The Washington Post has written a series of stories suggesting that Trump has not made any significant charitable donations using his own money. His campaign said he gives away a lot of money; the tax forms would presumably resolve this. And third, the tax forms would show how much tax he paid, which would be interesting given mounting evidence that he may not have paid federal income taxes.
What does MSNBC have?
MSNBC said Tuesday it had obtained part of Trump's 1040 form from 2005. The form was given to journalist David Cay Johnston, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said.
What else is out there?
In October, The New York Times obtained three pages from Trump's 1995 tax forms. They showed the top pages of Trump's tax filings for Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, all states where he earned money and paid taxes. The forms showed that that Trump reported losing $913,765,884 in 1995. Tax experts questioned by the Times said Trump could have used legal tax policies to avoid paying income tax for 18 years.
Is it legal to avoid paying income tax for that many years?
Yes. Federal tax law allows real estate investors, such as Trump, to declare losses and carry them forward to offset income in future years.
So what's the big deal?
That's pretty much what Trump's supporters ask. Surrogates say the tax documents prove that Trump is a sharp businessmen, taking full advantage of the tax laws for the benefit of his companies and employees. Trump himself said he knows the tax code better than anyone else and thus is best qualified to fix it.
Trump's opponents have a different take: They argue that Trump was making millions of dollars and then using convoluted loopholes to avoid paying even as much in taxes as a regular working American family. So, for example, when he tweeted about the government wasting "our tax money," it wasn't actually his money, they said.
Is there other evidence that Trump did not pay?
There have been spotty stories over the years about Trump avoiding taxes in specific circumstances. For example, Politico reported in 2016 that Trump had paid no taxes for two years in the early 1990s because of significant losses in his casino operations. “Welcome to the real estate business,” Trump responded to Politico.
A USA TODAY analysis of court records in 2016 also indicated that Trump’s businesses have been involved in at least 100 lawsuits and other disputes related to unpaid taxes or how much tax his businesses owe.
What else do we know?
The Times story from October revealed a loss Trump claimed in one year, which could be used to reduce his tax burden for 18 years. But without full tax returns, there is no way to know how much tax he actually paid, or how much he offset with the 1995 losses. Keep in mind that this tax write-off applies to Trump's personal federal income taxes, not other state taxes he might have paid.
The Trump campaign did not dispute the documents and the reported losses in The New York Times story.
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