Seven hundred and fifty dollars.
That’s how much money President Donald Trump paid in federal income taxes in 2016, the year he won the presidency. For years, Donald Trump has refused to show the public his tax returns and now, we might finally know why:
The New York Times got its hands on President Trump’s taxes exposing staggering business losses, crushing personal debt, and a tax bill that constitutes only a fraction of what the average American family pays. When asked about it on the September 29 debate, Trump denied everything, saying that he paid “millions in taxes.”
While over one hundred million Americans shell out money to the IRS every April, the president works his way around it. Out of the 18 years examined by the paper, Trump had paid no income taxes at all in 11 of them “largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.” However, the paper accuses the president and his companies of claiming questionable deductions. The article uncovers that among the write-offs Trump has taken over the years, he dedicated more than $70,000 for haircuts while on The Apprentice, almost $96,000 for Ivanka Trump’s favorite hair and makeup artist, and nearly $2 million for Trump and Donald Trump Jr.’s legal defense for the Russia inquiry. Moreover, he wrote off more than $109,000 for linens and silverware and nearly $200,000 for landscaping at Mar-a-Lago. Trump reported $26 million in “unexplained consulting fees” some of which were given to Ivanka Trump. This raises some serious red flags because she was also an employee of the Trump organization. This isn’t just ethically wrong, like writing off too much money to hairstyling; it could be illegal.
This raises the question: is it smart to not pay taxes or is it unpatriotic?
History would indicate the latter due to the importance of taxes for the federal government and the conduct of past presidents. Presidential tax returns show that during the first year he was in office, Ronald Reagan paid $165,202 federal income taxes, George H.W. Bush paid $101,382, Bill Clinton paid $62,670, George W. Bush paid $250,221, Barack Obama paid $1,792,414, and Donald Trump paid $750.
In 2017 alone, the president’s $750 contribution to the United States could not compare to the taxes he paid in other countries: $15,598 to Panama, $145,400 to India, and $156,824 to the Philippines. Trump paid 423.76 times more to Panama, India, and the Philippines than he did to the United States.
Now with voting for the 2020 election already underway, we need to consider if, in unprecedented times like these, we want a “smart” president who will weave his way out of doing the best for his country. When the numbers point to the conclusion that Trump only ran for the presidency to “reanimate the marketability of his name,” it becomes a matter of democracy and American values. Do we want Trump’s decisions to be influenced by the anonymous creditors of his $421 million? Is transparency of personal finances – something that we’ve seen in the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, and his VP, Kamala Harris – something that we value? Do we want a president that will contribute more to other countries than his own? More importantly, if Trump can get away with paying as little as he does, who else is doing the same? Is he just the symptom of a broken economy allowing for the wealthy and well-connected to find ways to cheat the system? And if he is, what are we going to do about it this November?