What do Donald Trump's tax returns show us about the former president's finances?

The tax returns could shed light on Donald Trump’s wealth and his businesses' performance. Credit: AP

Democrats in Congress released six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns on Friday, ending a bitter battle to gain a deeper insight into the former Republican president's finances.

The returns, which include redactions of some personal sensitive information such as social security and bank account numbers, are dated from 2015 to 2020.

They span nearly 6,000 pages, including more than 2,700 pages of individual returns from Mr Trump and his wife, Melania, and more than 3,000 pages in returns for his business entities.

According to the filings, Mr Trump reported having bank accounts in China, Ireland and the United Kingdom in 2015 through to 2017.

Starting in 2018, however, he only reported an account in the United Kingdom.

Amongst the other headlines were that the former president paid no tax in 2020 and close to a million dollars in 2018.

The returns also show that Mr Trump claimed foreign tax credits for taxes he paid on various business ventures around the world.

These included licensing arrangements for use of his name on development projects and his golf courses in Scotland and Ireland.

They show Mr Trump and Melania Trump claimed large deductions and losses and paid little or no income tax in several years between 2015 and 2020, Reuters reports.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal talks after the committee voted on whether to release years of Mr Trump's tax return. Credit: AP

Democrats who control the House of Representatives and oversaw the release argued that transparency and the rule of law were at stake if they remained out of public view.

Richard Neal, the Democratic chairman of the ways and means committee, said in a statement: “A president is no ordinary taxpayer. They hold power and influence unlike any other American. And with great power comes even greater responsibility.” He added: “We anticipated the IRS would expand the mandatory audit program to account for the complex nature of the former president’s financial situation yet found no evidence of that.

"This is a major failure of the IRS under the prior administration, and certainly not what we had hoped to find.”

What have Donald Trump's previous tax records shown?

A report by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation released last week showed Mr Trump paid $641,931 in federal income taxes in 2015, the year he began his campaign for president.

He went on to pay $750 in 2016 and 2017, nearly $1 million in 2018, $133,445 in 2019 and nothing in 2020.

In October 2018, The New York Times published reports based on leaked tax records that showed Mr Trump received a modern-day equivalent of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate holdings, with much of that money coming from what the Times called “tax dodges” in the 1990s.

Some Republicans, however, had argued the release of Mr Trump's tax records would set a dangerous precedent undermining privacy protections.

Every US president and major-party candidate since Richard Nixon has voluntarily made at least summaries of their tax information available to the public.

But Mr Trump broke decades of political precedent when he refused to voluntarily release the information when he ran for office in the 2016 presidential election.

He then waged a legal battle to keep them secret while he was in the White House.

In November, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Ways and Means Committee could access the returns.

“The Democrats should have never done it, the Supreme Court should have never approved it, and it’s going to lead to horrible things for so many people,” Mr Trump said in a statement on Friday.

“The radical, left Democrats have weaponized everything, but remember, that is a dangerous two-way street!” He said the returns “once again show how proudly successful I have been and how I have been able to use depreciation and various other tax deductions as an incentive for creating thousands of jobs and magnificent structures and enterprises.”

The release of the tax return is the latest blow for Mr Trump, 76, who was impeached twice before being acquitted, as he faces multiple legal woes while he mounts a 2024 re-election attempt.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know