Spoiler alert: They’re not.
The New York Times released their “Trump’s Taxes Show Chronic Losses and Years of Income Tax Avoidance” article to much tittering from the peanut gallery, who are simultaneously cackling over Trump’s supposed losses and his offensively lavish lifestyle. The article, released 37 days before the Presidential election, intends to alienate Trump’s blue collar base. It aims to do so highlighting Trump’s low or nonexistent income taxes over the past two decades.
The problems with the NYT article, and all subsequent articles based off of it, are numerous and cannot be ignored. For starters, the NYT refuses to release the documents for anyone else to analyze:
“We are not making the records themselves public because we do not want to jeopardize our sources, who have taken enormous personal risks to help inform the public.”
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Instead, “a team of New York Times reporters has pored over this information.” There are three reporters on the byline of the article, but no reference is made to any additional reporters, CPAs, or forensic accountants. Certainly a professional opinion may hold some weight when dissecting nearly 20 years of complex tax information spanning dozens of businesses and real estate holdings.
We’ll gloss over the fact that the graphs used by the NYT show data 2000-2018. This happened despite the fact that they clearly state they do not have access to the 2018 return. Since they don’t see fit to mention the inconsistency, we’ll skip right over it as well.
The secrecy surrounding the tax returns, as well as the lack of transparency in who dissected and analyzed them, aren’t even the most concerning parts of the article. The NYT claims that Trump has been losing millions of dollars each year. It also claims that Trump has not been paying income taxes anywhere near what other wealthy Americans are paying. At the same time, he is enjoying a lavish lifestyle of estate hopping and private jets. All of these statements aim to shock us. Here’s why they don’t:
If Trump is indeed losing millions of dollars, then he should not be paying much, if any, income taxes. Without an income, what is he to be taxed on?
Many wealthy Americans use loopholes to reduce the amount of taxes they pay. This may be controversial but is not illegal.
If Trump is truly failing miserably as a businessman and losing his fortune year after year, how does he afford the lavish lifestyle described in the article?
Unfortunately for the Times, they cannot successfully paint Trump as both a failed businessman and a wealthy person avoiding taxes. The two cannot exist simultaneously.
Tax Return and Net Worth
As Americans sift through the New York Times’ slanted and amateurly analyzed data, it’s important to remember that tax returns are not a reliable measure of a person’s net worth. Trump is well within the letter of the law to write off net operating losses, depreciation on his properties, and business expenses. Americans may take offence to the fact that he paid $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017. However, doing so does not mean he evaded taxes, or that he is broke.
With no experts brought in to analyze the tax returns, and no hope of the returns being released to the public, the Times offers little evidence to influence the American public. Trump has successfully overcome bigger scandals than this one created by the NYT.