Trump’s Taxes – NY Times

THE PRESIDENT’S TAXES
LONG-CONCEALED RECORDS SHOW TRUMP’S CHRONIC LOSSES AND YEARS OF TAX AVOIDANCE

The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.


By Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire

Sept. 27, 2020


2054
Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.

He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.


The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.

The New York Times has obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office. It does not include his personal returns for 2018 or 2019. This article offers an overview of The Times’s findings; additional articles will be published in the coming weeks.

The returns are some of the most sought-after, and speculated-about, records in recent memory. In Mr. Trump’s nearly four years in office — and across his endlessly hyped decades in the public eye — journalists, prosecutors, opposition politicians and conspiracists have, with limited success, sought to excavate the enigmas of his finances. By their very nature, the filings will leave many questions unanswered, many questioners unfulfilled. They comprise information that Mr. Trump has disclosed to the I.R.S., not the findings of an independent financial examination. They report that Mr. Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

THE PRESIDENT’S TAXES

Charting An Empire: A Timeline Of Trump’s Finances
18 Revelations From a Trove of Trump Tax Records
An Editor’s Note on the Trump Tax Investigation
In response to a letter summarizing The Times’s findings, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and requested the documents on which they were based. After The Times declined to provide the records, in order to protect its sources, Mr. Garten took direct issue only with the amount of taxes Mr. Trump had paid.

“Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015,” Mr. Garten said in a statement.

With the term “personal taxes,” however, Mr. Garten appears to be conflating income taxes with other federal taxes Mr. Trump has paid — Social Security, Medicare and taxes for his household employees. Mr. Garten also asserted that some of what the president owed was “paid with tax credits,” a misleading characterization of credits, which reduce a business owner’s income-tax bill as a reward for various activities, like historic preservation.

The tax data examined by The Times provides a road map of revelations, from write-offs for the cost of a criminal defense lawyer and a mansion used as a family retreat to a full accounting of the millions of dollars the president received from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

Together with related financial documents and legal filings, the records offer the most detailed look yet inside the president’s business empire. They reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on “The Apprentice” — that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base.

Ultimately, Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.

“The Apprentice,” along with the licensing and endorsement deals that flowed from his expanding celebrity, brought Mr. Trump a total of $427.4 million, The Times’s analysis of the records found. He invested much of that in a collection of businesses, mostly golf courses, that in the years since have steadily devoured cash — much as the money he secretly received from his father financed a spree of quixotic overspending that led to his collapse in the early 1990s.


“The Apprentice,” along with endorsements and other income that sprang from his growing fame, brought Donald Trump $427.4 million. Rob DeLorenzo/Zuma Press
Indeed, his financial condition when he announced his run for president in 2015 lends some credence to the notion that his long-shot campaign was at least in part a gambit to reanimate the marketability of his name.

As the legal and political battles over access to his tax returns have intensified, Mr. Trump has often wondered aloud why anyone would even want to see them. “There’s nothing to learn from them,” he told The Associated Press in 2016. There is far more useful information, he has said, in the annual financial disclosures required of him as president — which he has pointed to as evidence of his mastery of a flourishing, and immensely profitable, business universe.

In fact, those public filings offer a distorted picture of his financial state, since they simply report revenue, not profit. In 2018, for example, Mr. Trump announced in his disclosure that he had made at least $434.9 million. The tax records deliver a very different portrait of his bottom line: $47.4 million in losses.

Tax records do not have the specificity to evaluate the legitimacy of every business expense Mr. Trump claims to reduce his taxable income — for instance, without any explanation in his returns, the general and administrative expenses at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey increased fivefold from 2016 to 2017. And he has previously bragged that his ability to get by without paying taxes “makes me smart,” as he said in 2016. But the returns, by his own account, undercut his claims of financial acumen, showing that he is simply pouring more money into many businesses than he is taking out.

The picture that perhaps emerges most starkly from the mountain of figures and tax schedules prepared by Mr. Trump’s accountants is of a businessman-president in a tightening financial vise.

Most of Mr. Trump’s core enterprises — from his constellation of golf courses to his conservative-magnet hotel in Washington — report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year.

His revenue from “The Apprentice” and from licensing deals is drying up, and several years ago he sold nearly all the stocks that now might have helped him plug holes in his struggling properties.

The tax audit looms.

And within the next four years, more than $300 million in loans — obligations for which he is personally responsible — will come due.

Against that backdrop, the records go much further toward revealing the actual and potential conflicts of interest created by Mr. Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his business interests while in the White House. His properties have become bazaars for collecting money directly from lobbyists, foreign officials and others seeking face time, access or favor; the records for the first time put precise dollar figures on those transactions.

At the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., a flood of new members starting in 2015 allowed him to pocket an additional $5 million a year from the business. In 2017, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association paid at least $397,602 to the Washington hotel, where the group held at least one event during its four-day World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians.

The Times was also able to take the fullest measure to date of the president’s income from overseas, where he holds ultimate sway over American diplomacy. When he took office, Mr. Trump said he would pursue no new foreign deals as president. Even so, in his first two years in the White House, his revenue from abroad totaled $73 million. And while much of that money was from his golf properties in Scotland and Ireland, some came from licensing deals in countries with authoritarian-leaning leaders or thorny geopolitics — for example, $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey.


In the Philippines, where Mr. Trump licensed his name to a Manila tower, he or his companies paid $156,824 in taxes in 2017. Hannah Reyes Morales for The New York Times
He reported paying taxes, in turn, on a number of his overseas ventures. In 2017, the president’s $750 contribution to the operations of the U.S. government was dwarfed by the $15,598 he or his companies paid in Panama, the $145,400 in India and the $156,824 in the Philippines.

Mr. Trump’s U.S. payment, after factoring in his losses, was roughly equivalent, in dollars not adjusted for inflation, to another presidential tax bill revealed nearly a half-century before. In 1973, The Providence Journal reported that, after a charitable deduction for donating his presidential papers, Richard M. Nixon had paid $792.81 in 1970 on income of about $200,000.

The leak of Mr. Nixon’s small tax payment caused a precedent-setting uproar: Henceforth, presidents, and presidential candidates, would make their tax returns available for the American people to see.


A MAP OF THE EMPIRE
The contents of thousands of personal and business tax records fill in financial details that have been withheld for years.

“I would love to do that,” Mr. Trump said in 2014 when asked whether he would release his taxes if he ran for president. He’s been backpedaling ever since.

When he ran, he said he might make his taxes public if Hillary Clinton did the same with the deleted emails from her private server — an echo of his taunt, while stoking the birther fiction, that he might release the returns if President Barack Obama released his birth certificate. He once boasted that his tax returns were “very big” and “beautiful.” But making them public? “It’s very complicated.” He often claims that he cannot do so while under audit — an argument refuted by his own I.R.S. commissioner. When prosecutors and congressional investigators issued subpoenas for his returns, he wielded not just his private lawyers but also the power of his Justice Department to stalemate them all the way to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Trump’s elaborate dance and defiance have only stoked suspicion about what secrets might lie hidden in his taxes. Is there a financial clue to his deference to Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin? Did he write off as a business expense the hush-money payment to the pornographic film star Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election? Did a covert source of money feed his frenzy of acquisition that began in the mid-2000s?

The Times examined and analyzed the data from thousands of individual and business tax returns for 2000 through 2017, along with additional tax information from other years. The trove included years of employee compensation information and records of cash payments between the president and his businesses, as well as information about ongoing federal audits of his taxes. This article also draws upon dozens of interviews and previously unreported material from other sources, both public and confidential.

All of the information The Times obtained was provided by sources with legal access to it. While most of the tax data has not previously been made public, The Times was able to verify portions of it by comparing it with publicly available information and confidential records previously obtained by The Times.

To delve into the records is to see up close the complex structure of the president’s business interests — and the depth of his entanglements. What is popularly known as the Trump Organization is in fact a collection of more than 500 entities, virtually all of them wholly owned by Mr. Trump, many carrying his name. For example, 105 of them are a variation of the name Trump Marks, which he uses for licensing deals.

Fragments of Mr. Trump’s tax returns have leaked out before.

Transcripts of his main federal tax form, the 1040, from 1985 to 1994, were obtained by The Times in 2019. They showed that, in many years, Mr. Trump lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer. Three pages of his 1995 returns, mailed anonymously to The Times during the 2016 campaign, showed that Mr. Trump had declared losses of $915.7 million, giving him a tax deduction that could have allowed him to avoid federal income taxes for almost two decades. Five months later, the journalist David Cay Johnston obtained two pages of Mr. Trump’s returns from 2005; that year, his fortunes had rebounded to the point that he was paying taxes.


In 1995, the year Mr. Trump broke ground on the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York, he would declare losses of $915.7 million — a sum so large, it could be carried forward to cancel out taxable income for years. Francis Specker/New York Post Archives, via NYP Holdings, Inc., via Getty Images

By 2005, his fortunes had turned and he was paying income taxes: He had exhausted the tax-reducing power of that nearly $1 billion loss just as he began to see a surge of celebrity income after “The Apprentice” debuted. Michael Nagle/Getty Images
The vast new trove of information analyzed by The Times completes the recurring pattern of ascent and decline that has defined the president’s career. Even so, it has its limits.

Tax returns do not, for example, record net worth — in Mr. Trump’s case, a topic of much posturing and almost as much debate. The documents chart a great churn of money, but while returns report debts, they often do not identify lenders.

The data contains no new revelations about the $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford, the actress who performs as Stormy Daniels — a focus of the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena for Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial information. Mr. Trump has acknowledged reimbursing his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, who made the payoff, but the materials obtained by The Times did not include any itemized payments to Mr. Cohen. The amount, however, could have been improperly included in legal fees written off as a business expense, which are not required to be itemized on tax returns.

No subject has provoked more intense speculation about Mr. Trump’s finances than his connection to Russia. While the tax records revealed no previously unknown financial connection — and, for the most part, lack the specificity required to do so — they did shed new light on the money behind the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, a subject of enduring intrigue because of subsequent investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

The records show that the pageant was the most profitable Miss Universe during Mr. Trump’s time as co-owner, and that it generated a personal payday of $2.3 million — made possible, at least in part, by the Agalarov family, who would later help set up the infamous 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials seeking “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton and a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin.

In August, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that looked extensively into the circumstances of the Moscow pageant, and revealed that as recently as February, investigators subpoenaed the Russian singer Emin Agalarov, who was involved in planning it. Mr. Agalarov’s father, Aras, a billionaire who boasts of close ties to Mr. Putin, was Mr. Trump’s partner in the event.


Emin Agalarov, left, a Russian singer whose family was involved in planning the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Mr. Trump made $2.3 million from that year’s pageant, the records show. Irina Bujor/Kommersant.ru, via Associated Press
The committee interviewed a top Miss Universe executive, Paula Shugart, who said the Agalarovs offered to underwrite the event; their family business, Crocus Group, paid a $6 million licensing fee and another $6 million in expenses. But while the pageant proved to be a financial loss for the Agalarovs — they recouped only $2 million — Ms. Shugart told investigators that it was “one of the most lucrative deals” the Miss Universe organization ever made, according to the report.

That is borne out by the tax records. They show that in 2013, the pageant reported $31.6 million in gross receipts — the highest since at least the 1990s — allowing Mr. Trump and his co-owner, NBC, to split profits of $4.7 million. By comparison, Mr. Trump and NBC shared losses of $2 million from the pageant the year before the Moscow event, and $3.8 million from the one the year after.


LOSER, WINNER
Losses reported by businesses Mr. Trump owns and runs helped wipe out tax bills on hundreds of millions of dollars in celebrity income.

While Mr. Trump crisscrossed the country in 2015 describing himself as uniquely qualified to be president because he was “really rich” and had “built a great company,” his accountants back in New York were busy putting the finishing touches on his 2014 tax return.

After tabulating all the profits and losses from Mr. Trump’s various endeavors on Form 1040, the accountants came to Line 56, where they had to enter the total income tax the candidate was required to pay. They needed space for only a single figure.

Zero.

For Mr. Trump, that bottom line must have looked familiar. It was the fourth year in a row that he had not paid a penny of federal income taxes.

Mr. Trump’s avoidance of income taxes is one of the most striking discoveries in his tax returns, especially given the vast wash of income itemized elsewhere in those filings.

Mr. Trump’s net income from his fame — his 50 percent share of “The Apprentice,” together with the riches showered upon him by the scores of suitors paying to use his name — totaled $427.4 million through 2018. A further $176.5 million in profit came to him through his investment in two highly successful office buildings.

So how did he escape nearly all taxes on that fortune? Even the effective tax rate paid by the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans could have caused him to pay more than $100 million.

The answer rests in a third category of Mr. Trump’s endeavors: businesses that he owns and runs himself. The collective and persistent losses he reported from them largely absolved him from paying federal income taxes on the $600 million from “The Apprentice,” branding deals and investments.

That equation is a key element of the alchemy of Mr. Trump’s finances: using the proceeds of his celebrity to purchase and prop up risky businesses, then wielding their losses to avoid taxes.

Throughout his career, Mr. Trump’s business losses have often accumulated in sums larger than could be used to reduce taxes on other income in a single year. But the tax code offers a workaround: With some restrictions, business owners can carry forward leftover losses to reduce taxes in future years.

That provision has been the background music to Mr. Trump’s life. As The Times’s previous reporting on his 1995 return showed, the nearly $1 billion in losses from his early-1990s collapse generated a tax deduction that he could use for up to 18 years going forward.

The newer tax returns show that Mr. Trump burned through the last of the tax-reducing power of that $1 billion in 2005, just as a torrent of entertainment riches began coming his way following the debut of “The Apprentice” the year before.

For 2005 through 2007, cash from licensing deals and endorsements filled Mr. Trump’s bank accounts with $120 million in pure profit. With no prior-year losses left to reduce his taxable income, he paid substantial federal income taxes for the first time in his life: a total of $70.1 million.

As his celebrity income swelled, Mr. Trump went on a buying spree unlike any he had had since the 1980s, when eager banks and his father’s wealth allowed him to buy or build the casinos, airplanes, yacht and old hotel that would soon lay him low.

When “The Apprentice” premiered, Mr. Trump had opened only two golf courses and was renovating two more. By the end of 2015, he had 15 courses and was transforming the Old Post Office building in Washington into a Trump International Hotel. But rather than making him wealthier, the tax records reveal as never before, each new acquisition only fed the downward draft on his bottom line.

Consider the results at his largest golf resort, Trump National Doral, near Miami. Mr. Trump bought the resort for $150 million in 2012; through 2018, his losses have totaled $162.3 million. He has pumped $213 million of fresh cash into Doral, tax records show, and has a $125 million mortgage balance coming due in three years.


Trump National Doral near Miami, Mr. Trump’s largest golf resort. Since 2000, he has reported losing more than $315.6 million at his golf courses. Scott McIntyre for The New York Times
His three courses in Europe — two in Scotland and one in Ireland — have reported a combined $63.6 million in losses.

Over all, since 2000, Mr. Trump has reported losses of $315.6 million at the golf courses that are his prized possessions.

For all of its Trumpworld allure, his Washington hotel, opened in 2016, has not fared much better. Its tax records show losses through 2018 of $55.5 million.

And Trump Corporation, a real estate services company, has reported losing $134 million since 2000. Mr. Trump personally bankrolled the losses year after year, marking his cash infusions as a loan with an ever-increasing balance, his tax records show. In 2016, he gave up on getting paid back and turned the loan into a cash contribution.

Mr. Trump has often posited that his losses are more accounting magic than actual money out the door.

Last year, after The Times published details of his tax returns from the 1980s and 1990s, he attributed the red ink to depreciation, which he said in a tweet would show “losses in almost all cases” and that “much was non monetary.”

“I love depreciation,” Mr. Trump said during a presidential debate in 2016.

Depreciation, though, is not a magic wand — it involves real money spent or borrowed to buy buildings or other assets that are expected to last years. Those costs must be spread out as expenses and deducted over the useful life of the asset. Even so, the rules do hold particular advantages for real estate developers like Mr. Trump, who are allowed to use their real estate losses to reduce their taxable income from other activities.

What the tax records for Mr. Trump’s businesses show, however, is that he has lost chunks of his fortune even before depreciation is figured in. The three European golf courses, the Washington hotel, Doral and Trump Corporation reported losing a total of $150.3 million from 2010 through 2018, without including depreciation as an expense.

To see what a successful business looks like, depreciation or not, look no further than one in Mr. Trump’s portfolio that he does not manage.

After plans for a Trump-branded mini-city on the Far West Side of Manhattan stalled in the 1990s, Mr. Trump’s stake was sold by his partner to Vornado Realty Trust. Mr. Trump objected to the sale in court, saying he had not been consulted, but he ended up with a 30 percent share of two valuable office buildings owned and operated by Vornado.

His share of the profits through the end of 2018 totaled $176.5 million, with depreciation factored in. He has never had to invest more money in the partnership, tax records show.

Among businesses he runs, Mr. Trump’s first success remains his best. The retail and commercial spaces at Trump Tower, completed in 1983, have reliably delivered more than $20 million a year in profits, a total of $336.3 million since 2000 that has done much to help keep him afloat.

Mr. Trump has an established track record of stiffing his lenders. But the tax returns reveal that he has failed to pay back far more money than previously known: a total of $287 million since 2010.

The I.R.S. considers forgiven debt to be income, but Mr. Trump was able to avoid taxes on much of that money by reducing his ability to declare future business losses. For the rest, he took advantage of a provision of the Great Recession bailout that allowed income from canceled debt to be completely deferred for five years, then spread out evenly over the next five. He declared the first $28.2 million in 2014.

Once again, his business losses mostly absolved his tax responsibilities. He paid no federal income taxes for 2014.

Mr. Trump was periodically required to pay a parallel income tax called the alternative minimum tax, created as a tripwire to prevent wealthy people from using huge deductions, including business losses, to entirely wipe out their tax liabilities.

Mr. Trump paid alternative minimum tax in seven years between 2000 and 2017 — a total of $24.3 million, excluding refunds he received after filing. For 2015, he paid $641,931, his first payment of any federal income tax since 2010.

As he settled into the Oval Office, his tax bills soon returned to form. His potential taxable income in 2016 and 2017 included $24.8 million in profits from sources related to his celebrity status and $56.4 million for the loans he did not repay. The dreaded alternative minimum tax would let his business losses erase only some of his liability.

Each time, he requested an extension to file his 1040; and each time, he made the required payment to the I.R.S. for income taxes he might owe — $1 million for 2016 and $4.2 million for 2017. But virtually all of that liability was washed away when he eventually filed, and most of the payments were rolled forward to cover potential taxes in future years.

To cancel out the tax bills, Mr. Trump made use of $9.7 million in business investment credits, at least some of which related to his renovation of the Old Post Office hotel, which qualified for a historic-preservation tax break. Although he had more than enough credits to owe no taxes at all, his accountants appear to have carved out an allowance for a small tax liability for both 2016 and 2017.

When they got to line 56, the one for income taxes due, the amount was the same each year: $750.


THE $72.9 MILLION MANEUVER
“The Apprentice” created what was probably the biggest income tax bite of Mr. Trump’s life. During the Great Recession bailout, he asked for the money back.

Testifying before Congress in February 2019, the president’s estranged personal lawyer, Mr. Cohen, recalled Mr. Trump’s showing him a huge check from the U.S. Treasury some years earlier and musing “that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving someone like him that much money back.”

In fact, confidential records show that starting in 2010 he claimed, and received, an income tax refund totaling $72.9 million — all the federal income tax he had paid for 2005 through 2008, plus interest.

The legitimacy of that refund is at the center of the audit battle that he has long been waging, out of public view, with the I.R.S.

The records that The Times reviewed square with the way Mr. Trump has repeatedly cited, without explanation, an ongoing audit as grounds for refusing to release his tax returns. He alluded to it as recently as July on Fox News, when he told Sean Hannity, “They treat me horribly, the I.R.S., horribly.”

And while the records do not lay out all the details of the audit, they match his lawyers’ statement during the 2016 campaign that audits of his returns for 2009 and subsequent years remained open, and involved “transactions or activities that were also reported on returns for 2008 and earlier.”

Mr. Trump harvested that refund bonanza by declaring huge business losses — a total of $1.4 billion from his core businesses for 2008 and 2009 — that tax laws had prevented him from using in prior years.

But to turn that long arc of failure into a giant refund check, he relied on some deft accounting footwork and an unwitting gift from an unlikely source — Mr. Obama.

Business losses can work like a tax-avoidance coupon: A dollar lost on one business reduces a dollar of taxable income from elsewhere. The types and amounts of income that can be used in a given year vary, depending on an owner’s tax status. But some losses can be saved for later use, or even used to request a refund on taxes paid in a prior year.

Until 2009, those coupons could be used to wipe away taxes going back only two years. But that November, the window was more than doubled by a little-noticed provision in a bill Mr. Obama signed as part of the Great Recession recovery effort. Now business owners could request full refunds of taxes paid in the prior four years, and 50 percent of those from the year before that.

Mr. Trump had paid no income taxes in 2008. But the change meant that when he filed his taxes for 2009, he could seek a refund of not just the $13.3 million he had paid in 2007, but also the combined $56.9 million paid in 2005 and 2006, when “The Apprentice” created what was likely the biggest income tax bite of his life.

The records reviewed by The Times indicate that Mr. Trump filed for the first of several tranches of his refund several weeks later, in January 2010. That set off what tax professionals refer to as a “quickie refund,” a check processed in 90 days on a tentative basis, pending an audit by the I.R.S.

His total federal income tax refund would eventually grow to $70.1 million, plus $2,733,184 in interest. He also received $21.2 million in state and local refunds, which often piggyback on federal filings.

Whether Mr. Trump gets to keep the cash, though, remains far from a sure thing.

Refunds require the approval of I.R.S. auditors and an opinion of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, a bipartisan panel better known for reviewing the impact of tax legislation. Tax law requires the committee to weigh in on all refunds larger than $2 million to individuals.

Records show that the results of an audit of Mr. Trump’s refund were sent to the joint committee in the spring of 2011. An agreement was reached in late 2014, the documents indicate, but the audit resumed and grew to include Mr. Trump’s returns for 2010 through 2013. In the spring of 2016, with Mr. Trump closing in on the Republican nomination, the case was sent back to the committee. It has remained there, unresolved, with the statute of limitations repeatedly pushed forward.

Precisely why the case has stalled is not clear. But experts say it suggests that the gap between the sides remains wide. If negotiations were to deadlock, the case would move to federal court, where it could become a matter of public record.

The dispute may center on a single claim that jumps off the page of Mr. Trump’s 2009 tax return: a declaration of more than $700 million in business losses that he had not been allowed to use in prior years. Unleashing that giant tax-avoidance coupon enabled him to receive some or all of his refund.

The material obtained by The Times does not identify the business or businesses that generated those losses. But the losses were a kind that can be claimed only when partners give up their interest in a business. And in 2009, Mr. Trump parted ways with a giant money loser: his long-failing Atlantic City casinos.


Mr. Trump announced in 2009 that he was abandoning his stake in his Atlantic City casino business. Mark Makela for The New York Times
After Mr. Trump’s bondholders rebuffed his offer to buy them out, and with a third round of bankruptcy only a week away, Mr. Trump announced in February 2009 that he was quitting the board of directors.

“If I’m not going to run it, I don’t want to be involved in it,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m one of the largest developers in the world. I have a lot of cash and plenty of places I can go.”

The same day, he notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that he had “determined that his partnership interests are worthless and lack potential to regain value” and was “hereby abandoning” his stake.

The language was crucial. Mr. Trump was using the precise wording of I.R.S. rules governing the most beneficial, and perhaps aggressive, method for business owners to avoid taxes when separating from a business.

A partner who walks away from a business with nothing — what tax laws refer to as abandonment — can suddenly declare all the losses on the business that could not be used in prior years. But there are a few catches, including this: Abandonment is essentially an all-or-nothing proposition. If the I.R.S. learns that the owner received anything of value, the allowable losses are reduced to just $3,000 a year.

And Mr. Trump does appear to have received something. When the casino bankruptcy concluded, he got 5 percent of the stock in the new company. The materials reviewed by The Times do not make clear whether Mr. Trump’s refund application reflected his public declaration of abandonment. If it did, that 5 percent could place his entire refund in question.

If the auditors ultimately disallow Mr. Trump’s $72.9 million federal refund, he will be forced to return that money with interest, and possibly penalties, a total that could exceed $100 million. He could also be ordered to return the state and local refunds based on the same claims.

In response to a question about the audit, Mr. Garten, the Trump Organization lawyer, said facts cited by The Times were incorrect, without citing specifics. He did, however, write that it was “illogical” to say Mr. Trump had not paid taxes for those three years just because the money was later refunded.

“While you claim that President Trump paid no taxes in 10 of the 15 previous years,” Mr. Garten said, “you also assert that President Trump claimed a massive refund for tens of millions for taxes he did pay. These two claims are entirely inconsistent and, in any event, not supported by the facts.”

House Democrats who have been in hot pursuit of Mr. Trump’s tax returns most likely have no idea that at least some of the records are sitting in a congressional office building. George Yin, a former chief of staff for the joint committee, said that any identifying information about taxpayers under review was tightly held among a handful of staff lawyers and was rarely shared with politicians assigned to the committee.

It is possible that the case has been paused because Mr. Trump is president, which would raise the personal stakes of re-election. If the recent Fox interview is any indication, Mr. Trump seems increasingly agitated about the matter.

“It’s a disgrace what’s happened,” he told Mr. Hannity. “We had a deal done. In fact, it was — I guess it was signed even. And once I ran, or once I won, or somewhere back a long time ago, everything was like, ‘Well, let’s start all over again.’ It’s a disgrace.”


THE 20 PERCENT SOLUTION
Helping to reduce Mr. Trump’s tax bills are unidentified consultants’ fees, some of which can be matched to payments received by Ivanka Trump.

Examining the Trump Organization’s tax records, a curious pattern emerges: Between 2010 and 2018, Mr. Trump wrote off some $26 million in unexplained “consulting fees” as a business expense across nearly all of his projects.

In most cases the fees were roughly one-fifth of his income: In Azerbaijan, Mr. Trump collected $5 million on a hotel deal and reported $1.1 million in consulting fees, while in Dubai it was $3 million with a $630,000 fee, and so on.

Mysterious big payments in business deals can raise red flags, particularly in places where bribes or kickbacks to middlemen are routine. But there is no evidence that Mr. Trump, who mostly licenses his name to other people’s projects and is not involved in securing government approvals, has engaged in such practices.

Rather, there appears to be a closer-to-home explanation for at least some of the fees: Mr. Trump reduced his taxable income by treating a family member as a consultant, and then deducting the fee as a cost of doing business.

The “consultants” are not identified in the tax records. But evidence of this arrangement was gleaned by comparing the confidential tax records to the financial disclosures Ivanka Trump filed when she joined the White House staff in 2017. Ms. Trump reported receiving payments from a consulting company she co-owned, totaling $747,622, that exactly matched consulting fees claimed as tax deductions by the Trump Organization for hotel projects in Vancouver and Hawaii.


Eric, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. with their father at an announcement of the Vancouver hotel project in 2013. Ms. Trump appears to have both managed that deal, and another in Hawaii, as a salaried Trump Organization executive, and also been paid as a “consultant” on them. Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press
Ms. Trump had been an executive officer of the Trump companies that received profits from and paid the consulting fees for both projects — meaning she appears to have been treated as a consultant on the same hotel deals that she helped manage as part of her job at her father’s business.

When asked about the arrangement, the Trump Organization lawyer, Mr. Garten, did not comment.

Employers can deduct consulting fees as a business expense and also avoid the withholding taxes that apply to wages. To claim the deduction, the consulting arrangement must be an “ordinary and necessary” part of running the business, with fees that are reasonable and market-based, according to the I.R.S. The recipient of the fees is still required to pay income tax.

The I.R.S. has pursued civil penalties against some business owners who devised schemes to avoid taxes by paying exorbitant fees to related parties who were not in fact independent contractors. A 2011 tax court case centered on the I.R.S.’s denial of almost $3 million in deductions for consulting fees the partners in an Illinois accounting firm paid themselves via corporations they created. The court concluded that the partners had structured the fees to “distribute profits, not to compensate for services.”

There is no indication that the I.R.S. has questioned Mr. Trump’s practice of deducting millions of dollars in consulting fees. If the payments to his daughter were compensation for work, it is not clear why Mr. Trump would do it in this form, other than to reduce his own tax liability. Another, more legally perilous possibility is that the fees were a way to transfer assets to his children without incurring a gift tax.

A Times investigation in 2018 found that Mr. Trump’s late father, Fred Trump, employed a number of legally dubious schemes decades ago to evade gift taxes on millions of dollars he transferred to his children. It is not possible to discern from this newer collection of tax records whether intra-family financial maneuverings were a motivating factor.

However, the fact that some of the consulting fees are identical to those reported by Mr. Trump’s daughter raises the question of whether this was a mechanism the president used to compensate his adult children involved with his business. Indeed, in some instances where large fees were claimed, people with direct knowledge of the projects were not aware of any outside consultants who would have been paid.

On the failed hotel deal in Azerbaijan, which was plagued by suspicions of corruption, a Trump Organization lawyer told The New Yorker the company was blameless because it was merely a licenser and had no substantive role, adding, “We did not pay any money to anyone.” Yet, the tax records for three Trump L.L.C.s involved in that project show deductions for consulting fees totaling $1.1 million that were paid to someone.

In Turkey, a person directly involved in developing two Trump towers in Istanbul expressed bafflement when asked about consultants on the project, telling The Times there was never any consultant or other third party in Turkey paid by the Trump Organization. But tax records show regular deductions for consulting fees over seven years totaling $2 million.

Ms. Trump disclosed in her public filing that the fees she received were paid through TTT Consulting L.L.C., which she said provided “consulting, licensing and management services for real estate projects.” Incorporated in Delaware in December 2005, the firm is one of several Trump-related entities with some variation of TTT or TTTT in the name that appear to refer to members of the Trump family.

Like her brothers Donald Jr. and Eric, Ms. Trump was a longtime employee of the Trump Organization and an executive officer for more than 200 Trump companies that licensed or managed hotel and resort properties. The tax records show that the three siblings had each drawn a salary from their father’s company — roughly $480,000 a year, jumping to about $2 million after Mr. Trump became president — though Ms. Trump no longer receives a salary. What’s more, Mr. Trump has said the children were intimately involved in negotiating and managing his projects. When asked in a 2011 lawsuit deposition whom he relied on to handle important details of his licensing deals, he named only Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric.

On Ms. Trump’s now-defunct website, which explains her role at the Trump Organization, she was not identified as a consultant. Rather, she has been described as a senior executive who “actively participates in all aspects of both Trump and Trump branded projects, including deal evaluation, predevelopment planning, financing, design, construction, sales and marketing, and ensuring that Trump’s world-renowned physical and operational standards are met.

“She is involved in all decisions — large and small.”


THE ART OF THE WRITE-OFF
Hair stylists, table linens, property taxes on a family estate — all have been deducted as business expenses.

Private jets, country clubs and mansions have all had a role in the selling of Donald Trump.

“I play to people’s fantasies,” he wrote in “Trump: The Art of the Deal.” “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”

If the singular Trump product is Trump in an exaggerated form — the man, the lifestyle, the acquisitiveness — then everything that feeds the image, including the cost of his businesses, can be written off on his taxes. Mr. Trump may be reporting business losses to the government, but he can still live a life of wealth and write it off.

Take, for example, Mar-a-Lago, now the president’s permanent residence as well as a private club and stage set on which Trump luxury plays out. As a business, it is also the source of millions of dollars in expenses deducted from taxable income, among them $109,433 for linens and silver and $197,829 for landscaping in 2017. Also deducted as a business expense was the $210,000 paid to a Florida photographer over the years for shooting numerous events at the club, including a 2016 New Year’s Eve party hosted by Mr. Trump.


Mar-a-Lago, where a flood of new members starting in 2015 allowed Mr. Trump to pocket an additional $5 million a year from the business, is also a source of millions in tax deductions. Saul Martinez for The New York Times
Mr. Trump has written off as business expenses costs — including fuel and meals — associated with his aircraft, used to shuttle him among his various homes and properties. Likewise the cost of haircuts, including the more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during “The Apprentice.” Together, nine Trump entities have written off at least $95,464 paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump.

In allowing business expenses to be deducted, the I.R.S. requires that they be “ordinary and necessary,” a loosely defined standard often interpreted generously by business owners.

Perhaps Mr. Trump’s most generous interpretation of the business expense write-off is his treatment of the Seven Springs estate in Westchester County, N.Y.

Seven Springs is a throwback to another era. The main house, built in 1919 by Eugene I. Meyer Jr., the onetime head of the Federal Reserve who bought The Washington Post in 1933, sits on more than 200 acres of lush, almost untouched land just an hour’s drive north of New York City.

“The mansion is 50,000 square feet, has three pools, carriage houses, and is surrounded by nature preserves,” according to The Trump Organization website.

Mr. Trump had big plans when he bought the property in 1996 — a golf course, a clubhouse and 15 private homes. But residents of surrounding towns thwarted his ambitions, arguing that development would draw too much traffic and risk polluting the drinking water.

Mr. Trump instead found a way to reap tax benefits from the estate. He took advantage of what is known as a conservation easement. In 2015, he signed a deal with a land conservancy, agreeing not to develop most of the property. In exchange, he claimed a $21.1 million charitable tax deduction.


Mr. Trump classified the Seven Springs estate as an investment property, not a personal residence, allowing for certain tax savings. Meanwhile, Eric Trump has called it a “home base,” and the Trump Organization website describes it as a “retreat for the Trump family.” Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
The tax records reveal another way Seven Springs has generated substantial tax savings. In 2014, Mr. Trump classified the estate as an investment property, as distinct from a personal residence. Since then, he has written off $2.2 million in property taxes as a business expense — even as his 2017 tax law allowed individuals to write off only $10,000 in property taxes a year.

Courts have held that to treat residences as businesses for tax purposes, owners must show that they have “an actual and honest objective of making a profit,” typically by making substantial efforts to rent the property and eventually generating income.

Whether or not Seven Springs fits those criteria, the Trumps have described the property somewhat differently.

In 2014, Eric Trump told Forbes that “this is really our compound.” Growing up, he and his brother Donald Jr. spent many summers there, riding all-terrain vehicles and fishing on a nearby lake. At one point, the brothers took up residence in a carriage house on the property. “It was home base for us for a long, long time,” Eric told Forbes.

And the Trump Organization website still describes Seven Springs as a “retreat for the Trump family.”

Mr. Garten, the Trump Organization lawyer, did not respond to a question about the Seven Springs write-off.

The Seven Springs conservation-easement deduction is one of four that Mr. Trump has claimed over the years. While his use of these deductions is widely known, his tax records show that they represent the lion’s share of his charitable giving — about $119.3 million of roughly $130 million in personal and corporate charitable contributions reported to the I.R.S.


The Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles, another site where Mr. Trump has claimed a conservation-easement deduction. Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Two of those deductions — at Seven Springs and at the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles — are the focus of an investigation by the New York attorney general, who is examining whether the appraisals on the land, and therefore the tax deductions, were inflated.

Another common deductible expense for all businesses is legal fees. The I.R.S. requires that these fees be “directly related to operating your business,” and businesses cannot deduct “legal fees paid to defend charges that arise from participation in a political campaign.”

Yet the tax records show that the Trump Corporation wrote off as business expenses fees paid to a criminal defense lawyer, Alan S. Futerfas, who was hired to represent Donald Trump Jr. during the Russia inquiry. Investigators were examining Donald Jr.’s role in the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians who had promised damaging information on Mrs. Clinton. When he testified before Congress in 2017, Mr. Futerfas was by his side.

Mr. Futerfas was also hired to defend the president’s embattled charitable foundation, which would be shut down in 2018 after New York regulators said it had engaged in “a shocking pattern of illegality.”

The Trump Corporation paid Mr. Futerfas at least $1.9 million in 2017 and 2018, tax records show. Also written off was at least $259,684 paid to Williams & Jensen, another law firm brought in during the same period to represent Donald Trump Jr.


A PRESIDENT AND A BUSINESSMAN
Deals in countries led by strongmen, tenants who have business before the federal government, and hotels and clubs that draw those seeking access or favor.

In May, the chairman of a trade group representing Turkish business interests wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging support for increased trade between the United States and Turkey. The ultimate goal was nothing less than “reorienting the U.S. supply chain away from China.”

The letter was among three sent to cabinet secretaries by Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, chairman of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council, who noted that he had copied each one to Mr. Trump.

The president needed no introduction to Mr. Yalcindag: The Turkish businessman helped negotiate a licensing deal in 2008 for his family’s company to develop two Trump towers in Istanbul. The tax records show the deal has earned Mr. Trump at least $13 million — far more than previously known — including more than $1 million since he entered the White House, even as his onetime associate now lobbies on behalf of Turkish interests.

Mr. Yalcindag said he had “remained friendly” with Mr. Trump since their work together years ago, but that all communications between his trade group and the administration “go through formal channels and are properly disclosed.”


Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, pictured with the Trumps in 2012, helped negotiate a licensing deal in Istanbul that brought Mr. Trump at least $13 million. He now lobbies on behalf of Turkish business interests. Trump Organization, via PR Newswire
The ethical quandaries created by Mr. Trump’s decision to keep his business while in the White House have been documented. But the full financial measure of his extraordinary confluence of interests — a president with a wealth of business entanglements at home and in myriad geopolitical hot spots — has remained elusive.

The tax records for Mr. Trump and his hundreds of companies show precisely how much money he has received over the years, and how heavily he has come to rely on leveraging his brand in ways that pose potential or direct conflicts of interest while he is president. The records also provide the first reliable window onto his finances before 2014, the earliest year covered by his required annual disclosures, showing that his total profits from some projects outside the United States were larger than indicated by those limited public filings.

Based on the financial disclosures, which report much of his income in broad ranges, Mr. Trump’s earnings from the Istanbul towers could have been as low as $3.2 million. In the Philippines, where he licensed his name to a Manila tower nearly a decade ago, the low end of the range was $4.1 million — less than half of the $9.3 million he actually made. In Azerbaijan, he collected more than $5 million for the failed hotel project, about twice what appeared on his public filings.

It did not take long for conflicts to emerge when Mr. Trump ran for president and won. The Philippines’ strongman leader, Rodrigo Duterte, chose as a special trade envoy to Washington the businessman behind the Trump tower in Manila. In Argentina, a key person who had been involved in a Uruguayan licensing deal that earned Mr. Trump $2.3 million was appointed to a cabinet post.

The president’s conflicts have been most evident with Turkey, where the business community and the authoritarian government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have not hesitated to leverage various Trump enterprises to their advantage. When Turkish-American relations were at a low point, a Turkish business group canceled a conference at Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel; six months later, when the two countries were on better terms, the rescheduled event was attended by Turkish government officials. Turkish Airlines also chose the Trump National Golf Club in suburban Virginia to host an event.

More broadly, the tax records suggest other ways in which Mr. Trump’s presidency has propped up his sagging bottom line. Monthly credit card receipts, reported to the I.R.S. by third-party card processing firms, reflect the way certain of his resorts, golf courses and hotels became favored stamping grounds, if not venues for influence-trading, beginning in 2015 and continuing into his time in the White House.

The credit card data does not reflect total revenue, and is useful mainly for showing short-term ups and downs of consumer interest in a business. While two of Mr. Trump’s marquee draws — the Washington hotel in the Old Post Office and the Doral golf resort — are loaded with debt and continue to lose money, both have seen credit card transactions rise markedly with his political ascent.


Though the Trump International Hotel in Washington is loaded with debt and losing money, its credit card transactions have risen with Mr. Trump’s political ascent. Al Drago for The New York Times
At the hotel, the monthly receipts grew from $3.7 million in December 2016 shortly after it opened, to $5.4 million in January 2017 and $6 million by May 2018. At Doral, after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015, credit card revenue more than doubled, to $13 million, for the three months through August, compared with the same period the year before.

One Trump enterprise that has been regularly profitable, and is a persistent source of concern about ethical conflicts and national security lapses, is the Mar-a-Lago club. Profits there rose sharply after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, as courtiers eagerly joining up brought a tenfold rise in cash from initiation fees — from $664,000 in 2014 to just under $6 million in 2016, even before Mr. Trump doubled the cost of initiation in January 2017. The membership rush allowed the president to take $26 million out of the business from 2015 through 2018, nearly triple the rate at which he had paid himself in the prior two years.

Some of the largest payments from business groups for events or conferences at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties have come since Mr. Trump became president, the tax records show.

At Doral, Mr. Trump collected a total of at least $7 million in 2015 and 2016 from Bank of America, and at least $1.2 million in 2017 and 2018 from a trade association representing food retailers and wholesalers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce paid Doral at least $406,599 in 2018.

Beyond one-time payments for events or memberships, large corporations also pay rent for space in the few commercial buildings Mr. Trump actually owns. Walgreens, the pharmacy giant that resolved an antitrust matter before federal regulators in 2017, pays $3.4 million a year for a lease at 40 Wall Street, a Trump-owned office building in Manhattan.

Another renter at 40 Wall, for $2.5 million a year, is Atane Engineers, which changed its name in 2018 after a corruption scandal that culminated in two former top executives’ pleading guilty to paying bribes for city infrastructure contracts. Despite the criminal case — which landed the company on New York State’s list of “non-responsible entities” that require a waiver to obtain state contracts — the newly christened Atane registered as an eligible federal contractor with no restrictions listed in its file.

Rental income over all at 40 Wall has risen markedly, from $30.5 million in 2014 to $43.2 million in 2018. The tax records show that the cost of existing leases there has risen. and at least four law firms appear to have moved in since Mr. Trump ran for president.


Mr. Trump has a 30 percent stake in two valuable office towers, including one in Midtown Manhattan, shared with and managed by Vornado Realty Trust. Dave Sanders for The New York Times

The other tower, in San Francisco, co-owned with Vornado, whose C.E.O. is a Trump ally and whose tenants include firms that lobby the federal government. Jim Wilson/The New York Times
In addition to buildings he owns outright, there is the president’s stake in the Vornado partnerships that control two valuable office towers — 1290 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan and 555 California Street in San Francisco. Vornado’s chief executive, Steven Roth, is a close Trump ally recently named to the White House economic recovery council. Last year, the president appointed Mr. Roth’s wife, Daryl Roth, to the Kennedy Center board of trustees.

Vornado tenants include a roster of blue-chip firms paying multimillion-dollar leases, many of whom regularly do business with, lobby or are regulated by the federal government. Among the dozens of leases paid in 2018 to Mr. Trump’s Vornado partnerships, according to his tax records, were $5.8 million from Goldman Sachs; $3.1 million from Microsoft; $32.7 million from Neuberger Berman, an investment management company; and $8.8 million from the law firm Kirkland & Ellis.


THE GATHERING STORM
Threats are converging: mounting business losses, the looming I.R.S. audit and personally guaranteed debts coming due.

When Mr. Trump glided down a gilded Trump Tower escalator to kick off his presidential campaign in June 2015, his finances needed a jolt.

His core businesses were reporting mounting losses — more than $100 million over the previous two years. The river of celebrity-driven income that had long buoyed them was running dry.

If Mr. Trump hoped his unlikely candidacy might, at least, revitalize his brand, his barrage of derogatory remarks about immigrants quickly cost him two of his biggest and easiest sources of cash — licensing deals with clothing and mattress manufacturers that had netted him more than $30 million. NBC, his partner in Miss Universe — source of nearly $20 million in profits — announced that it would no longer broadcast the pageant; he sold it soon after.

Now his tax records make clear that he is facing a battery of threats to his business and his own financial well-being.

Over the past decade, he appears to have filled the cash-flow gaps with a series of one-shots that may not be available again.

In 2012, he took out a $100 million mortgage on the commercial space in Trump Tower. He took nearly the entire amount as a payout, his tax records show. His company has paid more than $15 million in interest on the loan, but nothing on the principal. The full $100 million comes due in 2022.

In 2013, he withdrew $95.8 million from his Vornado partnership account.

And in January 2014, he sold $98 million in stocks and bonds, his biggest single month of sales in at least the last two decades. He sold $54 million more in stocks and bonds in 2015, and $68.2 million in 2016. His financial disclosure released in July showed that he had as little as $873,000 in securities left to sell.

Mr. Trump’s businesses reported cash on hand of $34.7 million in 2018, down 40 percent from five years earlier.

What’s more, the tax records show that Mr. Trump has once again done what he says he regrets, looking back on his early 1990s meltdown: personally guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, a decision that led his lenders to threaten to force him into personal bankruptcy.

This time around, he is personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million, with most of it coming due within four years. Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president.

There is, however, a tax benefit for Mr. Trump. While business owners can use losses to avoid taxes, they can do so only up to the amount invested in the business. But by taking personal responsibility for that $421 million in debt, Mr. Trump would be able to declare that amount in losses in future years.

The balances on those loans had not been paid down by the end of 2018. And the businesses carrying the bulk of the debt — the Doral golf resort ($125 million) and the Washington hotel ($160 million) — are struggling, which could make it difficult to find a lender willing to refinance it.

The unresolved audit of his $72.9 million tax refund hangs over his head.

The broader economy promises little relief. Across the country, brick-and-mortar stores are in decline, and they have been very important to Trump Tower, which has in turn been very important to Mr. Trump. Nike, which rented the space for its flagship store in a building attached to Trump Tower and had paid $195.1 million in rent since the 1990s, left in 2018.

The president’s most recent financial disclosure reported modest gains in 2019. But that was before the pandemic hit. His already struggling properties were shut down for several months earlier this year. The Doral resort asked Deutsche Bank to allow a delay on its loan payments. Analysts have predicted that the hotel business will not fully recover until late 2023.

THE PRESIDENT’S TAXES

Charting An Empire: A Timeline Of Trump’s Finances
18 Revelations From a Trove of Trump Tax Records
An Editor’s Note on the Trump Tax Investigation
Mr. Trump still has assets to sell. But doing so could take its own toll, both financial and to Mr. Trump’s desire to always be seen as a winner. The Trump family said last year that it was considering selling the Washington hotel, but not because it was losing money.

In Mr. Trump’s telling, any difficulty in his finances has been caused by the sacrifices made for his current job.

“They say, ‘Trump is getting rich off our nation,’” he said at a rally in Minneapolis last October. “I lose billions being president, and I don’t care. It’s nice to be rich, I guess, but I lose billions.”

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Zebra-striped Caps and Gowns for Everyone!

Okay, so here’s the issue: our local high school suddenly shows off new graduation gowns that are supposedly a blending of the girls’ gold and the boys’ black, with a small WW insignia below the collar. Cue the firestorm!

My Facebook newsfeed filled with tears and girls posting that they weren’t going to be caught dead in such a thing. I completely understand if you think it’s ugly. Listen: my high school varsity baseball team wore all yellow. Yellow. We were friggin’ VIKINGS, and our secondary color was maroon. We could have represented survivors from a bloody (maroon) battle, but instead we were … canary-like. We were bananas. We never struck fear unloading from our (yellow) bus at away games.

I get the ugly thing. It’s a matter of taste. And tradition? Well, team uniforms change. Is there really a deep tradition in presenting the graduating class in either black or yellow (sorry, the girls’ gowns are not all that gold.) I guess I’m suspicious when someone uses the term tradition when it comes to a once-in-a-lifetime event. Is your sense of tradition offended because you aren’t wearing the same gown as your older brother? Do you line pics up on the piano and want visitors to be sure to know you went to the same high school?

The argument about senior pics not matching graduation day pics is certainly valid if you require continuity in your scrapbooks. “This is my senior yearbook photo, but they screwed us over and made us wear a different gown at graduation.” Meh. As a parent of a senior, I’m not particularly thrown off by the change. I don’t see any aunts or uncles being skeptical that our kid actually graduated, lifting a hand and saying ‘wait a second, what’s going on here’. Heck, I’m hoping like crazy for a sunny day next June that creates photos that look nothing like those silly studio light head shots.

So what are we really upset about? Let’s dive in …

There have been recent cases around the country of transgender kids wanting to wear the color gown in which they identify. In Chicago, a girl went through her entire elementary, middle and high school career as an outgoing, happy, well-adjusted kid. She was a cheerleader and on the homecoming court. She had a weighted 4.65 GPA and is headed to the University of Chicago on a full ride. But midway through her senior year, a parent of a friend discovered the dirty little secret that she had been born a male. Holy hell ensued because, well, that’s certainly worthy of holy hell. How dare this girl say she’s a girl! I mean, how dare this boy who everyone knew and loved as a girl claim she’s a girl!

After all, look at what happened when we allowed gay boys into the showers with our straight boys. Look at the devastation that occurred. There were orgies and beheadings and, well, civilization has never been so disrupted. Did we learn nothing from allowing those nine black kids into Little Rock schools 60 years ago? Blacks were going to rape our precious white daughters. The American education system was doomed. Some of us blame the Vietnam War on those nine little black kids (it came after that, right?) And if not for them, we would have beaten the USSR to the moon!

The School Board in that Chicago suburb at first told the offended parent to pound sand, to which she reacted by writing a check to an attorney and threatening a lawsuit for NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES. I mean, c’mon, how dare a girl (I mean boy) have long hair, wear feminine clothes, and choose a female nickname? How can an offended parent be expected to sleep at night when such crimes are happening? It was in the Bible, wrote the offended parent’s attorney. Yes, he wrote, this is a public school that’s two blocks from a lovely Bible School, but our Christian values are offended (and the Bible School has a $4000 tuition.)

This premise, of course, also applies to cisgender kids (those whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex) who are offended with requirements to wear “BOY” or “GIRL” uniforms in a public school.

So the School Board did what School Boards sometimes do. They held a gown burning party and ponied up $16.50 times 453 students to buy zebra striped (no, I’m kidding, they were all-black) gowns for everyone.

The next step, of course, was to grab pitchforks and torches and practice catchy “Hang the tranny” chants.

It went like this:

“What do we want?
To hang the tranny!
Whose going to do it?
We are!”

Jesus, it cramps my fingers to even type that.

So let’s review where we are. Our school district has been around for 47 years. I have no clue when girls were required to wear yellow (gold, dammit!) and boys were required to wear black. Did they have gowns here in 1969? Or the early 70s? Someone out there knows when it began. And now we are faced with change. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the new gowns. But it’s just a taste thing. I’m not sure how the NHS collar will look with the gold neck. But on a scale of 1 to 10, the gown is about a 1 on my indignation scale. Eh, a 10 would mean I was leaving the country over it. And, most of all, nobody has invited me to wear one anyway, so …

I guess I look back at the Chicago case and wonder what would have happened if the School Board had voted into the RULE BOOK that kids could wear the color gown of their choice. If they had recognized that the Earth would not have suddenly stopped rotating had they encouraged kids to be themselves and told Gladys Kravtiz (awesome Bewitched reference!) and her lawyer to mind their own business.

And why do we seem to always bow down to that small group that inconveniences the hell out of all the rest of us? Why are we treated so shabbily just to mollify a few? The answer is that it’s what our founding fathers required of Americans. It is what makes us great (not those red baseball caps made in China.) What concerned our founding fathers were the pitfalls of a tyranny of the majority, acknowledging that in a free and righteous society we needed to ensure that the majority did not make laws without regard for the rights and welfare of the minority. It’s in the US Constitution. Amendments and junk. I swear. So blame all those expensive ramps into libraries that granny uses on Hamilton and Madison. Those men somehow knew she would get hooked on the Twilight vampire series.

My final word is that if you think the gowns are ugly and it pisses you off that administration didn’t ask for your feedback, I hear ya. But let me introduce you to a solution: fire up your World Wide Internets and type your way over to The Google. Once there, search for the price of 200 cap and gowns. Then poke around for nifty fundraising ideas. If it’s easier to bitch than attack your way to a solution, well, the multi-color gown you’re wearing in June will likely be your last, so have Mom shoot lots of Polaroids. Is that overly snarky? I’m sorry. But if it really means so much to you, and if you are legitimately offended by the style and the fact that you weren’t consulted, it’s your move. Outsmart the lawyers and the administration, and rise above the finger pointing and the vulgar hate.

Good luck, Class of 2018. Be better than us adults. Make us proud. And, as the song goes, wear sunscreen.

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Taking a knee in America

If you don’t believe black people endure institutional racism, then of course taking a knee appears resoundingly disrespectful. But what if your son was attending Harvard University, and every time he returned to his dorm from an off campus party, police put him against the wall to be frisked. On the cop’s shoulder is sewn an American flag.

And Michael Brown did a shitty thing by shoving that old clerk, and there was no hands up surrender. But police in Ferguson and the surrounding towns were writing thousands of jaywalking citations and a slew of other absurd fines in order to directly fund their departments. Anyone remember the Georgia speed traps on their way to Disney World? Imagine those speed traps on a daily basis, with no recourse but to pay the fine.

If your loved ones were being harassed by police, what would you do? If you were rich, yet no team of attorneys could change how your cousins and your uncles were treated by police on a daily basis, what steps would you take?

What if your President watched a march that was made up of 100% white supremacists, yet claimed there were many fine people among them? These are people who would lynch your son and laugh about it.

So you are a rich athlete, with the world stage. What do you do? Some took a knee. They aren’t stomping or burning the flag. Think of the athletes as bowing to half-mast. Something in America is wrong to them. To many black people, there is great suffering at the hands of police. Statistics bolster their argument.

Kneeling isn’t intended to disrespect soldiers. Let’s not forget that 1/3 of our military is of color. Listen: not one athlete taking a knee is thinking Fuck you, Marine. He is thinking My sister’s kid mouthed off to a cop and was beaten with a club so badly that he may not live.

White people who don’t fear police call these athletes ignorant, spoiled punks. Is that really the side of history you want to be on? Take a moment and recall the Little Rock Nine. Allowing black kids into schools with whites was going to end the civilized world. White girls were going to be raped. There would be disease. And in the ensuing 60 years, innocent black kids are still being followed around convenience stores and thrown against walls to be frisked.

Pro athletes are taking a knee because being black in America is not the same as being white. Being black means you are more likely to encounter police violence. You are more likely to be shot or choked to death for selling illegal cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner.

Let me ask all my 2nd Amendment friends what they would do if their government turned on them. Let’s see some Fed boys roll up in Crown Vic and demand to search your castle with no warrant or cause. What would you do if police or the Feds came after your family, started throwing you up against the wall? Yet you call Antifa scum and pro athletes who take a knee are “shameful” sons-of-bitches?

Again, what side of history do you want to be on?

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A little school-related news …

South Canaan, PA — Western Wayne High School senior Ty Alpaugh has been named a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists in the 63rd annual National Merit Scholarship program. She is the first Western Wayne student to achieve the honor in the District’s 47 year history, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). Ty, daughter of Cole and Amy Alpaugh, of Lake Ariel, is among the top 16,000 students nationwide who earned the distinction of semifinalist.

According to NMSC, about 1.5 million students entered the 2018 program by taking the 2016 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The semi-finalists comprise the highest scoring entrants in each state and represent less than one percent of the top-scoring U.S. high school seniors. These academically talented students earned the opportunity to compete for some 7,400 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million to be offered next spring.

In order to be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. About 90 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and more than half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

For more information on the competition and the scholarships, go to www.nationalmerit.org.

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Who belongs on the sidelines?

Someone recently asked me what type of credentials are required for covering high school sports. Can anybody walk down to the sidelines at a high school football game and take photos? Are there privacy issues for student-athletes? Should those pictures appear on social media without permission of the subjects? What’s to protect high school athletes – say a swim team – from being exploited by a pervert with a telephoto lens?

To begin with, I’m not an attorney. My expertise is solely from my experience as a photojournalist for newspapers, magazines, and a Philly based yearbook company dating back to 1983. I have covered every level sport from U6 soccer to every Jet and Giant home game over a three year span – as well as hundreds of Yankee and Met home games. I shot from the field at the 1986 World Series, and sat out rain delays in the Yankee dugout for countless hours. For Baltimore Oriole games at the old Memorial Stadium, there were no photographer seats. We used to kneel on the field in front of the box seats and hope Rick Dempsey didn’t bowl us over.

High school sidelines are meant for photographers who have a legitimate reason for close access, and who do not create issues with officials. It’s not a place for parents to get better pictures “because I pay an arm and a leg in school taxes”. Parents are also biased to one team, and the last thing a sideline judge wants in his ear is an angry parent swinging a Nikon. He has enough on his plate with irate coaches.

Priority is split between press photographers and home and away yearbook photographers. Both photographers’ pictures reach a large number of people and the work is memorialized for all. Think of it this way: recall the last pre-K event that was held on stage, and the 40 parents crowded close to get their snapshots. Wouldn’t it have been better if everyone sat back and enjoyed the show while one professional photographer took all the pictures?

Another category of photographer is the pro who shoots to sell directly to parents. They provide a service, the same as any vendor. It’s generally the AD’s discretion if pros are required to pay admission, by the way. In most cases, a pro will offer a few free pics for publicity, or be sure to buy a hotdog or two. Keep in mind that schools are publicly funded, but remain private property. While a school is private property, the games being played are public events. There are no model releases required to publish high school sports pictures. If a photographer presents him or herself in a professional manner and is a legitimate vendor, they are generally granted sideline access.

Safety is also an issue. If a photog began unfolding a tripod on the sidelines of The Meadowlands, he or she would be ejected. And a photog who doesn’t pay attention and clear out of the way of end-arounds is a danger to himself and to athletes. Accidents happen. That last out of bounds shove in the back can cause an unavoidable collision. But with reasonable care, there’s no real peril with sideline photographers.

The perverts? Well, diligence and communication weed them out. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, go to the AD with your concerns. Ask the photographer, if you have the chance. I was on a shoot when some creep with a cell phone tried taking video of my kid. It happens. Don’t be shy. Tell someone in charge what you saw. Tell the campus cop. Perverts seem to work in the shadows. Do your part to make sure there aren’t any shadows.

To circle back to the original topic, you have to look at what the goals are in how sideline spots are allotted. ADs and school administration want publicity, and for parents and students to have access to photos. Most of the time it works fine with minimal oversight. League championships sometimes have their own rules for sideline management, but that’s still a case by case basis. We live in a new age of social media. It used to be the newspapers that people turned to for sports pictures. Now there are blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Who’s to say that a newspaper with 20,000 circulation is a more legitimate source than an Instagram photographer with 30,000 followers?

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What, Me Worry?

Worried about transgender soldiers simultaneously serving our country and destroying America? Let’s easily solve this by making one change: stop worrying about it. Turn off Hannity and Laura Ingraham and Rush. Trust me on this: you’re being brainwashed into embracing the latest and greatest bigotry. The far right tactic is to find nuggets that seem somehow true, and then pound away until they are cold hard facts. But remember there was a time when unit cohesion was used to segregate the military. Yep, blacks were not worthy of fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with whites.

The tyranny of the majority has focused its angst across the board. Jews are “this” and Muslims are “that”. Women are weak, and transgender folk are suicidal mental cases. Sharing gym showers with gays will surely turn our kids gay, and there are studies to prove it. They might not be scientific studies, but why would that matter?

It’s tempting to compare this rhetoric to the German military in the 1930s. But I won’t.

Want to lower your blood pressure? Stop believing that you have to care what sex, religion, color, or whatever people are that make them unique. Just move along. Worry about the jerk who cut you off in traffic, or whether your kid’s homework is done. Stop obsessing over what’s up that “odd looking woman’s skirt” unless you want to share what’s up your wife or grandmother’s skirt. And, seriously, is your granny such a beauty queen?

Again: reasons to hate are everywhere. There are plenty to find by twisting the radio dial a quarter turn. There are countless bullshit excuses. The minutia will seep from under any rock, under any door. Remember The Blob? But do you really want to go down on the side of history that built those ovens?

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(Blind) Human Rights For Dummies

Chapter 1

You are in charge of a large staff of middle-aged white men. Congratulations on your success! But you face a dilemma when seeking a new hire.

A black man applies, and it’s whispered in your ear that it will cause disruption, that some employees won’t want to work next to someone ‘like that’.

A woman applies, and it’s whispered in your ear that she won’t pull her weight because women are the weaker sex.

A Jewish man applies, and it’s whispered that he won’t be trustworthy. Same with the Muslim who applied that day.

A woman in wheelchair applies, and it’s whispered that your doorways are too narrow.

A gay man applies, and it’s whispered that male employees will fear being seduced – or “looked at” in that certain way.

A transgender person applies, and it’s whispered that everyone’s health premiums will increase and bathrooms won’t be safe.

People whispering in your ear will line up to add their reason why hiring any of these people will be a disaster. Statistics can be cited to bolster any argument. It takes strength to step away from these voices, to look at people as human beings rather than a collection of stereotypes used in rhetoric. The simple solution is to blindly hire the best human being.

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Who needs to ratchet it down?

“As your congressman on the House floor, I will do anything short of shooting them. Anything that is lawful, it needs to be done because illegal aliens need to quit taking jobs from American citizens.” – Rep. Mo Brooks, one of the Congressmen at the baseball field shooting

also:

Opposes restrictions on the right to bear arms. (Aug 2010)

Loosen restrictions on interstate gun purchases. (Oct 2011)

Voted NO on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. (Feb 2013)

Supports Amendment to prevent same sex marriage. (Aug 2010)

Voted YES on barring EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. (Apr 2011)

No EPA expansion of regulated waters. (Jul 2014)

Build Keystone XL; it’s now passed environmental concerns. (Feb 2013)

H.Amdt.219, an amendment to strip a particular provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, thereby preventing the Pentagon from considering allowing illegal immigrants granted executive amnesty into the military.

In a radio interview with the Will Anderson Radio Show, Brooks stated his opposition to undocumented immigrants serving in the military, saying, “These individuals have to be absolutely 100 percent loyal and trustworthy, as best as we can make them, ‘cause they’re gonna have access to all sorts of military weaponry—even to the point of having access to weapons of mass destruction like our nuclear arsenal. And I’m gonna have much greater faith in the loyalty of an American citizen than a person who is a citizen of a foreign nation.”

In 2010 Brooks signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity to not vote for any Global Warming legislation that would raise taxes.

Brooks opposed the Electrify Africa Act of 2013 (H.R. 2548; 113th Congress), a bill that would direct the President to establish a multiyear strategy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa develop an appropriate mix of power solutions to provide sufficient electricity access to people living in rural and urban areas in order to alleviate poverty and drive economic growth.

Brooks co-sponsored H.R. 127, which would have removed all funding from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, and any amendments made by either act.

On May 4, 2017 Brooks voted to pass the American Health Care Act, which would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In an interview in 2014, he stated that “8 million undocumented workers, 500,000 young immigrants should be deported”.

On August 4, 2014 Brooks went on The Laura Ingraham Show and Ingraham played Brooks a clip of Ron Fournier warning that the Republican Party could not survive as the “party of white people.” Brooks responded: “Well, this is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party… And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else. It’s part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, creed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things.”

Brooks voted yes on terminating funding for NPR.

Voted YES on banning federal health coverage that includes abortion.

Supports prohibiting human embryonic stem cell research.

No family planning assistance that includes abortion.

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Quote of the Day

“I’m Muslim, I’m Jewish, I’m Buddhist, I’m everybody ’cause I’m a people person.” – Shaquille O’Neal

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What $20 Billion Buys

Trump’s wall will cost $20 billion.

The new Evergreen Elementary School in Lake Ariel, PA, cost $20 million.

The wall is the financial equivalent to building 1000 new, state-of-the art middle schools.

There are 500 school districts in PA, which means the Commonwealth could build two state-of-the art middle schools in EVERY district for the price of the wall (or every state could each get TWENTY of their own if we aren’t greedy.)

The United States spent $14 billion on school construction in 2014.

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