Taxes

Rachael Maddow is not known for the cheap theatrics that typically come gratis with the hyperbolic sort of political commentator. But she joined her fellow pundits in the cesspool of click bait publicity with an overhyped release of Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return.

Noise was made. But the promise of a bombshell was no more honest than the cover of a paperback potboiler. Maddow’s big reveal showed little to Trump’s discredit and did nothing to shed light on the details of his labyrinthian finances.

A principle knock on Trump is that he pays no taxes. Yet this tax return shows he paid $38 million on an income of $150 million. A 25% tax rate. Perhaps less than the top bracket – but hardly a Romney-like level of tax thrift. Indeed, compared to the massive tax write-offs highlighted in his 1995 return he is profligate in his remittances to the Treasury.

Although it should be noted that the Alternative Minimum Tax Law accounted for $33 million of his tax bill. And it is a law he is lobbying to have overturned.

Also – disabusing those who speculated on Trump’s impecunity – an income of $150 million is not chump change.

The news is good enough to make one wonder if the tax return wasn’t leaked by Trump himself. Certainly, the fact that ‘client copy’ was stamped on the document seems to signpost its origins.

Further, for a leak, it is weak beer. The red meat is in the schedules. Where did Trump’s income come from? What is he writing off? Which banks collected interest payments? And the like.

And why just 2005? That’s the rub. Unlike salarymen, who cannot shift income and loss from one year to another to manage their finances, the independent businessman can massage his money across a continuum of years to maximize his benefit.

For a realistic assessment of Trump’s state of play, a study of consecutive (say five) years’ tax returns would produce a fair picture.

Will we ever see such a thing? I doubt Trump will provide them voluntarily. Perhaps some congressional committee will subpoena them. Which will inevitably trigger countersuits by Trump. And then …. who knows?

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