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'Billionaire' Trump paid way less in taxes than the 6 presidents before him

Barack Obama paid 238,889% more in taxes in his first year in office than Donald Trump did.

By Amy Lieu - September 29, 2020
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Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s six predecessors in the White House paid more in federal income taxes during their first years in office than he did, according to public records and a bombshell New York Times report that revealed Trump paid only $750 in taxes in several years. 

Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes during the year he won the election, 2016, and his first year in office, 2017. The Times reported that his potential taxable income those years included $24.8 million in profits from sources related to his celebrity status and $56.4 million in unpaid loans. Trump utilized $9.7 million in business investment credits and other expense write-offs to end up with the small tax liability of $750. 

Christopher Ingraham, the Washington Post data reporter who first flagged the disparity, noted that while Trump “donates” the salary he receives as president to charity, “Per the IRS the max charitable writeoff is 50% of the donation. $400k in donations leaves him with $200k to pay taxes on. And that’s in addition to the millions his other ventures make.”

Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, reinforced Ingraham’s take on Trump’s presidential salary donation and his tax liability. 

“What appears to be going on here, though, is either Trump is a miserable business manager, or he may not be entirely telling the truth in his tax forms, or both,” Holman said. 

“When you look at all presidents before Trump, they all paid their share,” he added. “And much, much more.” 

Barack Obama

Barack Obama paid a hefty $1,792,414 in federal income taxes on his 2009 tax return, 2,390 times greater, or, put another way, 238,889% more than what Trump paid. He filed jointly with Michelle Obama on an adjusted gross income of $5,505,409, with the vast majority of that year’s income stemming from the president’s books, according to a White House statement. 

George W. Bush

George W. Bush paid $250,221 in federal income taxes on his 2001 tax return, 334 times more than what Trump paid. He and Laura Bush filed jointly and reported taxable income of $711,453 that year. 

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton paid $62,670 in federal income taxes on his 1993 tax return, 84 times more than what Trump paid. He filed jointly with Hillary Clinton on an adjusted gross income of $293,7574, his highest salary to date. 

George H.W. Bush 

George H.W. Bush paid $101,382 in federal income taxes on his 1989 tax return, 135 times greater than what Trump paid. Bush filed jointly with Barbara Bush on an adjusted gross income of $456,780, of which $189,167 was his salary as president. 

Ronald Reagan 

Ronald Reagan paid $165,205 in federal income taxes on his 1981 tax return, 220 times what Trump paid. Filing jointly with Nancy Reagan, his adjusted gross income that year was $412,730. 

Jimmy Carter 

Jimmy Carter voluntarily paid the Treasury Department $6,000 in federal income taxes in 1977 after he had zero tax burden for the previous year due to a large earned investment tax credit from equipment and buildings for his peanut farm, according to presidential historian Joseph Thorndike. He told the Washington Post that he felt that he was well-off enough that he should pay some taxes. The average taxpayer that year paid 14% of their income; Carter paid 15% of his income that year, according to the Post

Reviewing the history of recent taxpayers in the White House, Holman said: “No president has just paid $750 in taxes. So it really raises a lot of questions.” 

Homan said he’d like to see Trump’s tax returns for himself to fill in the gaps in Trump’s finances.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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