New York Times reporter David Fahrenthold has spent the better part of the past six years following the financial life of former President Donald Trump, particularly when it comes to his business. Trump has claimed for decades that he's a billionaire.
A big part of the problem is that the IRS isn't fully funded and they don't have the resources to go after wealthy people who are willing to spend years in court fighting against tax problems. So many of the wealthy in America are going unchecked while poor families are facing off against the IRS.
"That is a big part of it," Fahrenthold explained. "Obviously, while Trump was president, there's a lot of other factors that were present. And it seems like they didn't do, as you said, even where they're supposed to do for presidents every year. But before he was president, he was just another rich guy with a really complicated tax structure. He's one person who owned more than 400 different entities and put them all in his taxes. Yes, this is about a lack of resources for the IRS. The IRS has been starved of resources for more than ten years. They see their job not as enforcing the law evenly or trying to make sure the world's fair, but as collecting revenue. They want to collect the most revenue they can. It seems they made the decision (that) it's easier to go after the low-hanging fruit --those of us who make less money and follow the law -- than it is to spend a lot of time trying to make sure that rich folks pay their fair share."
He went on to say that in Trump's case, "it seemed almost like even before he was president they threw up their hands and said, "Well, who can make heads or tails of this?"'
What was made clear by the Ways and Means Committee is that the IRS did not do the audits. They were under the leadership of Steve Mnuchin at the time. There was also a man overseeing the IRS that wasn't the kind of person to stand up to Donald Trump.
But it was with the information gleaned from the tax records that Fahrenthold was able to answer some of the longstanding questions about Trump's profits and losses.
"I would put what I learned into big categories. First was, as you alluded to: how much of Trump's money, taxes, accounts, were in foreign countries?" he asked. "Including countries like China, where Trump had no discernible to the outside eye — no discernible business connections. He didn't have property in China. He had no discernible business in China for several years. Still, he had an account there. I was surprised that he paid more taxes in foreign countries than in this country in several years. That was one thing."
Another startling finding he saw was just how much money Trump has overseas, not merely for his golf courses in the UK but in other places.
"The other thing was we spend all this time trying to figure out what's happening with Trump's golf courses," Fahrenthold continued. "With his hotels. Is he using the presidency to profit in those places? The one good year that he had was not due to Donald Trump at all, but it was due to Fred Trump, his now long-deceased father. In 2018, Trump sold the last pieces of his father's New York real estate empire. And got a big capital gain. It's really the only good year he had, and it came from his father. Not from himself."
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