At President Trump’s insistence, congressional Republicans are proposing something unprecedented: a special, lower tax bracket for partnerships, contractors and other “pass-through” businesses. And they’re doing so with only the vaguest of ideas how the proposal will affect the country’s most famous pass-through business owner: Donald Trump.
That’s because Trump has disclosed his holdings but not his tax returns. Although we know he has a stake in hundreds of pass-through businesses through the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, we don’t know how those businesses are organized for tax purposes, or what techniques the companies might be using to minimize their taxes — and Trump’s. So it’s impossible to tell exactly how much more or less in taxes he’d have to pay under the plans being proposed in Congress.
Actually, we know enough to say that he wouldn’t have to pay more. Trump declared that he’d be a “big loser” under the measure — that is, before he called on lawmakers to cut the top individual tax rate from 39.5% to 35%. But that’s almost certainly false. Congress’ own analysis of the tax bill’s effects shows that it would deliver the biggest benefits to those on the penthouse floor of the U.S. economy.
But creating a lower top rate for pass-through businesses could provide an even bigger boost to Trump than the bill’s other perks for the wealthy, such as the elimination of the alternative minimum tax. The pass-through provision would slash the taxes he pays on at least a portion, and potentially most, of his income to 25%.
As the first billionaire to occupy the Oval Office, Trump will have an outsize personal stake in any major tax bill that reached his desk. Yet he has doggedly and arrogantly refused to release his tax returns, as every president elected since Lyndon Johnson has done. The fact that the administration helped GOP lawmakers craft a tax proposal that’s particularly attuned to Trump’s holdings makes it imperative that the president release his returns. Americans need to know whether he’s acting in his interests or theirs.
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