Donald Trump is having a very bad day coming off of a bad week in an especially bad month. How bad is it? In a recent interview the Republican nominee signaled his awareness that he’s getting slaughtered in the polls by bragging that even if he loses, he’ll still be rich.
Today, while fending off accusations of both having recently threatened the life of his opponent and wrongfully suggesting President Obama founded ISIS, Trump got even more bad news. Hillary Clinton did the one thing he could never do: She released her tax returns.
According to the filings, Bill and Hillary Clinton earned $10.7 million in 2015 and paid roughly $3.6 million in federal taxes. Taking into account their state and local taxes, the Clintons had a total effective tax rate of more than 43 percent.
The Clintons are undeniably wealthy, having built a fortune over a lifetime of accomplishment, but they also don’t seem to mind paying their fair share in taxes. While the similarly wealthy Mitt Romney weaseled his way into paying as low as 14 percent in 2012, the Clintons paid nearly half of their 2015 income in taxes. That’s in line with the belief of what several high profile billionaires including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett think the richest Americans owe to the country that made them so.
But while this is probably a weight off of the Clinton campaign’s minds, Trump is entering a nightmare. He frequently brags about how rich he is, but his tax returns could threaten to show one of two very embarrassing things: He’s either not that rich or he’s not paying his fair share of taxes. In fact, he could be paying zero.
No one should be surprised, though, if Donald J. Trump has paid far less — perhaps even zero federal income tax in some years. Indeed, that’s the expectation of numerous real estate and tax professionals I’ve interviewed in recent weeks.Even with hundreds of millions in gross revenue from his vast real estate empire, “it’s both possible and legal that Donald Trump would pay little or no income tax,” said Len Green, an accountant and chairman of the Green Group, a tax and accounting advisory firm. Mr. Green is also a real estate investor, teaches at Babson College and is the author of the forthcoming “The Entrepreneur’s Playbook.”“I would expect he’s paying little or no tax,” agreed Steven M. Rosenthal, a veteran tax lawyer and senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy center.
Circumstantial evidence for that fraud-first mentality includes Trump repeatedly claiming tax credits meant to save small amounts of money for working class families. He was caught several times turning in forms for tax breaks he – as an alleged billionaire – would have no business claiming and saving sums of money that a real millionaire would not bother to pick up off the sidewalk. But greed works in mysterious ways.
Trump’s supporters are overwhelmingly low educated working class whites. The further away you get from an advanced degree, the likelier you are to show up to a Trump rally to chant “lock her up” and harass protesters. Invariably, these supporters come from corners of society that don’t have much in the way of wealth. Trump may intuitively know that releasing his tax returns will make it clear to them that the only person Trump has experience in helping is himself – oftentimes in fraudulent ways.
That may explain why Trump’s attorney has been frantically sprinting in front of any camera he can find to tell the country that there is absolutely no way that Trump will follow Clinton’s lead, or the traditions of the last half century, and release his tax returns before the election. They are sitting on an active landmine, and you can see them starting to sweat.
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