Claim: Trump has repeatedly claimed that the reason he is qualified to be president is because he’s a successful businessman, and many Americans believe it.
Rating: This claim is MOSTLY FALSE. Although Trump has made considerable money from his entertainment and real estate career, his tax returns from the last two decades reveal that he has lost much more money than he has made.
Between 2004 and 2018, Trump made $427.4 million from selling his image, such as the licensure of his brand to real estate firms and from The Apprentice. However, according to a report in The New York Times, Trump paid “no taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years–largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.”
Here are some of Trump’s most significant business failures:
- In 2016 and in 2017, his first year as president, Trump paid only $750 in federal taxes each of those years. That is because in 2017, Trump’s income was $14.8 million but he reported $27.6 million in business losses.
- Between 1985 and 1994, Trump’s businesses lost $1.17 billion. Year after year, Trump lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer.
- Within eighteen months of starting Trump Shuttle, his airline, in 1989, the business lost $125 million.
- Since 2000, Trump has reported losing more than $315 million in the operation of his golf courses.
- Trump’s Washington hotel has lost more than $55 million since opening in 2016.
- Under Trump’s ownership, the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was bankrupted twice. Having spent $1.2 billion to build the property, Trump sold it for only $50 million in 2017. In total, he has bankrupted his companies six times.
- In 2018, Trump paid $25 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by students who alleged that they had been defrauded by the now-defunct Trump University, a for-profit program.
- Trump currently owes hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and mortgages. In 2016, he took out a $100 million mortgage on the commercial space in Trump Tower. He appears to have paid off none of that amount, which is due in 2022. Additionally, his tax records show that he is personally liable for $421 million in loans, most of which is also due within four years.
- Trump’s business portfolio was vulnerable to the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; the value of Trump’s office buildings, hotels, and resorts have decreased by $600 million.
- In addition to these business losses, Trump also currently faces an audit by the IRS for claiming a $72.9 million tax refund in 2010, even after reporting huge losses of $1.4 billion in 2008 to 2009. He could owe the IRS as much as $100 million if the IRS finds that his reporting was inaccurate.
The New York Times’ reporting was based on two decades of Trump’s tax returns that the paper was able to obtain. Previously, Trump refused to release his tax returns, even though other politicians have done so when they ran for public office. Trump said that he could not release his returns because they were being audited. That is not true. An audit doesn’t prevent a president from releasing his tax returns.
Trump has dismissed The New York Times report as “fake news.” But he still refuses to release his returns. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, seemingly confirmed that the New York Times’s reporting was true, telling the press that he was “very concerned” about how Trump’s tax returns were released, saying, “That information should have never gotten out.”
Conclusion: The claim that Trump is a successful businessman, in terms of building profitable companies, has been determined to be MOSTLY FALSE. Year after year, Trump has reported huge losses on his tax returns that far exceed his income. Trump is also personally liable for $421 million dollars in loans, which will be due in the next four years.