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Show Over Substance

Wed, 09/30/2020 - 11:56


It did not take long for the president to shift attention from new and stunning revelations about his tax-avoidance schemes and precarious financial position, as detailed this week in The New York Times. Minutes into Tuesday  debate, all anyone watching seemed to want to talk about was his bullying theatrics. Score one for the president. But back to reality, the Donald Trump’s business acumen now looks to be more show than substance, depending on illegal maneuvers and with massive debts about to come due. Note that this is all from tax-return data prepared by his own lawyers and accountants and filed with the Internal Revenue Service under oath.

Mr. Trump has made tax avoidance central to his purported financial success, and in doing so has pushed the outer limits of the federal tax code, if not outright broken the law. A $72.9 million refund he took is under I.R.S. scrutiny and could be headed to federal court. He has spent generously on himself and some of his children, then claimed it as business expenses. In two I.R.S. returns he filed this decade he admitted to owing $750 in income taxes; in the other years, his claimed tax bill was zero. Some of the millions in “consulting fees” for hotel projects appear to have been funneled to his daughter Ivanka Trump.

His golf courses are money-losing machines, as is his Washington hotel. Most of his dwindling current wealth comes from his share of the television hit “The Apprentice,” in which he starred, and a blizzard of endorsement payments. The tax data also show more foreign sources of money than previously known, much of it from nations with troubling human rights records. His personal debt appears to be more than $420 million, with most of it to be paid in full within four years.

Sure, talk all you want about the debate, but have a look at The Times’s reporting too, won’t you?

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