Trump’s Taxes: Phoney or Baloney?

Is this return for real?


   There’s a persistent habit of professional journalists of failing to ask the right questions or to ask the right questions of someone in a position to know the correct answers. Nowhere is that failing more obvious than the story of the release Mar. 13 of Donald Trump’s purported 2005 income tax return, pages 1 and 2.

   The proper question: is the leaked “return” a correct copy of the return that was filed by The Donald for tax year 2005?

   The proper source of a credible answer: the IRS. Note that the leaked Form 1040 is unsigned and stamped “client copy”. Thus it is not purporting to be an original IRS document. The purported tax preparer’s name and address are illegible. Filed Tax returns must be signed by the tax payer and the preparer.
   True, the IRS would likely not answer the question absent the approval of the tax payer himself. And if the tax payer refused to authorize the IRS to confirm or deny the authenticity, that could mean the tax payer knew the “revealed” return was inauthentic – i.e. it was completely or partially revised or “amended” to reflect what the supplier of the return wanted the public to believe.

   Recall that Mr. Trump’s response to the media about David Cay Johnston’s leaked document was simply that Trump earned $150,000,000 in 2005 and paid $38 million in taxes.  Actually, it would reportedly have been more accurate to state that Trump paid $36 million in “alternative minimum” income taxes that year and $2 million in payroll taxes. But the IRS form 1040 was not authenticated by Donald Trump. He merely confirmed some of the information in it.

   Trump is a known liar and fabulist. He is known to be a secretive leaker of both truthful and false information about himself to serve his own purposes. I hope this doesn’t sound like a conspiracy theory but isn’t it possible Trump dummied up or altered a tax return and then leaked it to Johnston? Johnston speculated the Trump could be the leaker, but doesn’t go the extra quarter mile and even question the authenticity. Perhaps Johnston confirmed via a source in the IRS that the forms were the filed returns. But if he had, why did he not say that on Rachel Maddow’s show or on Democracy Now the following morning? He simply relies on lying Donald’s confirmation. And Johnston is well of aware (as are we all) that Donald is a serial prevaricator – Johnston Is the author of an unauthorized Trump biography. His failure to openly authenticate the return is, at least, odd.

   What we know is that the Trump Administration used the release of the 2005 “return” as evidence of 1) what a great and successful businessman Trump is;  2) that he paid $38 million in income taxes; and 3) that he was morally and legally obligated to himself, his partners and his employees (?)  to pay as little income tax as legally possible. In other words, Trump spun the leak to confirm his position as a genuine business genius.
   Why does this matter? Because Trump is well known as a distractor – he wants to distract and dilute from the search for more complete and more recent tax returns and hence reveal his business connections. He wants to distract from the search for evidence of complicity with Russian and other oligarchs and with the rigging of the 2016 election. These two pages of “tax returns” could be all we’ll ever get. Frankly, I doubt it will be the only return of his we’ll ever see. Recall that this leak is actually the second Trump tax return that has been released (despite Rachel’s and David’s  amnesia about an earlier release). On Oct. 1, 2016, Trump’s 1995 NY state tax return, showing a $900 million loss, arrived in a mysterious leak. At the time of that earlier release, reporters speculated that Donald would carry over that loss for 18 years and thereby obviate any tax obligation for nearly two decades. That apparently did not happen if we are to believe the 2005 return, as that earlier loss is not listed. Who was wrong about the carry forward? The speculating reporters? Donald’s 1995 tax accountants, Spahr, Lacher and Sperber LLP? Or was one, the other, or both of these returns false, forged or misleading?

   So far, we are left with more unasked questions than answers.

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