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“Multigenerational Wealth Is Best Hidden”: What Doesn’t Donald Trump Want You To Know About His Wealth?

This is what Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns says about America. We are a nation that can’t think straight about wealth and class. And Trump knows better than to puncture our delusions.

The American psyche is hyper-attuned to the trinkets of the wealthy: the right car, the right brand of clothes, the right vacation spots. We flatter ourselves with our circumscribed access to these status goods — or perhaps we only dream of that access — but we fail to understand that they do not equate to real wealth.

The very rich are different from you and me. They have something we never will: the power of money. Their money is the kind that doesn’t go away with a divorce, an extended sickness, a dip in the markets or even the death of a high income earner. Theirs is the kind that owns politicians and the laws they make.

Real wealth, the multigenerational kind, is best hidden. And even though a tax return won’t reveal all there is to know, it will reveal enough.

Trump told the Associated Press this week that nothing would be released until the government is through with its audit of him. The next day, Wednesday, he hedged a smidgeon to Fox News, saying he’d like to release the returns before the election. Don’t bet on that happening.

For one thing, if we were able to see how Trump’s fortune is structured and how much tax he pays on it, we would also be able to compute his liability under his proposed changes to the tax code. In other words, we would be able to approximate how much Trump stands to earn for himself and his heirs by pulling the strings of power. Is it any surprise he won’t go there?

Let’s take a closer look at the tax plan that he unveiled last fall. Plenty of experts have already done so.

As part of his populist appeal, Trump envisions simplifying the tax code and dismissing about 73 million households from paying any tax at all (most of those are already not paying). Those families will be able to submit a form to the IRS that says, “I win.” Yes, that is really his plan.

The cuts would lower taxes for people all income levels. But the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan but right-leaning watchdog group, noted “the biggest winners — in raw dollars and on a percentage basis — would be those in the top 10 percent of filers, particularly those in the top 1 percent.”

The top marginal rate for individuals would drop from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. The corporate rate would drop from 35 percent to 15 percent. He would do away with the estate tax. That adds up a lot of lost revenue — about $10 trillion over a decade, according to the Tax Foundation

Trump claims that the tax cuts would be made up for by closing some loopholes for the wealthy and corporations. But the Tax Foundation crunched the numbers and has deemed this to be wishful thinking. Severe cuts to spending would be necessary to avoid crushing growth in the national debt.

Wishful thinking is Trump’s stock in trade. Indeed, some speculate that another reason why he does not want the public to see his tax return is that his boasted wealth is squishier than he’d like to admit. Trump is notorious for overstating his attributes, and when it comes to his wealth he is especially touchy.

He sued former New York Times reporter Timothy O’Brien over the latter’s book, “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” which questioned Trump’s net worth. The book also explored if Trump convinced his siblings to borrow on his behalf from their trust funds to save him from financial ruin in the early 1990s. Trump’s lawsuit against O’Brien was dismissed.

Still, Trump is clearly rich to an extent most Americans cannot imagine. Oddly — and sadly — many tout this as an alluring quality. He’s so rich he can’t be bought, they say. This attitude reveals a pathetic inability to understand plutocracy, and its growing threat to our democracy. Americans continue to be suckered into unrealistic beliefs about their ability to upgrade their social class. Meanwhile, the policies and programs that are necessary to promote middle-class security are toppling one after another.

Donald Trump is not going to share his wealth with you, dear voter, or help you get rich on your own. He can’t. What worked for Trump will not work for you. His trick was the oldest one in the book: Have a rich daddy. And keep it in the family.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, May 14, 2016

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Plutocrats, Tax Returns | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Did He Pay Anything At All?”: Donald Trump Says He Won’t Release Tax Returns

Months after he said he would release his tax returns, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has decided that the American public doesn’t need to see how much (or little) he has paid in taxes until after the November elections, marking a shift in the vague promises he previously made to release the records to the public.

He solidified his position in an interview published by the Associated Press today, in which he said that “there’s nothing to learn from them.” Trump has also claimed that he is in the process of being audited by the IRS, and that releasing his returns for the year under audit would be imprudent, despite the agency confirming that being audited doesn’t legally interfere at all with the ability to release one’s tax records.

As far back as October 2015, Trump promised to release his tax documents. “I’m not going to say it, but at some point I’ll release it,” he said at the time. In that same interview, he also said, “I pay as little as possible, I’m very proud to tell you.”

In January, Trump said again that he would release his taxes soon. “We’re working on that now. I have big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” he said. Months later, they still haven’t been released.

Then again on May 8, just days before his announcement that he wouldn’t release his returns, he said, “Sure. If the auditors finish. I’ll do it as fast as the auditors finish.You don’t learn much from tax returns. But I would love to give the tax returns. But I can’t do it until I’m finished with the audit.”

But how little does Trump actually pay in taxes? David Cay Johnston, who spent three decades covering Trump as he moved from one business venture to another, noted that in 1978 and 1979 the businessman had paid exactly $0 in taxes.

He further explained how wealthy Americans like Trump use the tax code to their advantage, writing:

It’s all about tax rules that require you to depreciate, or reduce, the value of buildings over time, even if the market value of the structures is going up. If your depreciation is greater than your traditional income from work and businesses, Congress lets you report negative income. If these paper losses are just a dollar more than traditional income, it wipes out your income taxes for the year.

If Trump’s returns show he has paid no income taxes in some years, that could be a reason he has not yet released details.

Congress says most Americans can deduct no more than $25,000 of real estate depreciation against their income. But if you work two days a week managing real estate and own enough that the depreciation exceeds your salary and other income, Congress lets you live income-tax-free. And for as long as you keep buying buildings and depreciating them, the tax does not come due.

There are numerous reasons why Trump wouldn’t want to release his taxes. First, he has amassed his fortune partly by using tax loopholes that allowed him to effectively pay no income tax for years — possibly up to the present day. More recently, he changed his tune, saying, “I am willing to pay more, and you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more.” America should be thankful Trump wants to pay more than… whatever he’s currently paying. It could be nothing at all.

Second, the tax returns could show that he has far less money than he claims. This possibility was seized upon by anti-Trump Republicans who have tried to coerce Trump into releasing his returns. During the opening shots of the fight against the racist billionaire’s takeover of the party, Mitt Romney raised the possibility, saying, “Either he’s not anywhere near as wealthy as he says he is, or he hasn’t been paying the kind of taxes we would expect him to pay.”

There is evidence to back up Romney’s claim. Forbes calculated Trump’s worth to be $4.5 billion at most. “Trump has filed statements claiming he’s worth at least $10 billion or, as he put in a press release, TEN BILLION DOLLARS (capitalization his). After interviewing more than 80 sources and devoting unprecedented resources to valuing a single fortune, we’re going with a figure less than half that–$4.5 billion, albeit still the highest figure we’ve ever had for him.”

Even harder to explain is the jump in Trump’s cash-on-hand. The National Review wrote that his organization showed documentation for cash and cash equivalents of $307 million in 2014. This year, that number jumped up to $793 million, sans documentation, making it difficult to believe that he actually has that much money. “I’m running for President,” said Trump in an interview with Forbes. “I’m worth much more than you have me down [for]. I don’t look good, to be honest. I mean, I look better if I’m worth $10 billion than if I’m worth $4 billion.”

Trump’s obstruction has not only served his purposes, but that of his likely rival, Hillary Clinton. During the Democratic debate in Brooklyn last month, she responded to a question about her speech transcripts with a criticism of other presidential candidates, namely Trump, who didn’t release their tax returns.

“There are certain expectations when you run for president,” said Clinton. “This is a new one but I will tell you this, there is a longstanding expectation that everybody running release their tax returns.”

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Election 2016, Tax Returns | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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