The Biden campaign was quick to pounce on a New York Times article revealing Trump’s alleged tax data. On Sunday, just hours after the headline-grabbing story, “Team Joe” tore into the impeached president, comparing the reported $750 he paid to the IRS in both 2016 and 2017 with the tax amounts paid by everyday Americans.
In the ad that features no audible words, but scathing text, the campaign uses 2019 data on the amount that the average teacher, firefighter, construction manager and nurse paid. Their income tax contributions ranged from $5,238 to more than $16,000. Donald Trump, on the other hand, reportedly dodged paying any taxes for a decade and paid less than $1,000 the year he was elected and his first year in office.
The New York Times also claims that the tax data obtained shows Trump is personally responsible for $421 million in debt, and he could be responsible for paying Uncle Sam $100 million if an IRS audit shows that he illegitimately claimed a $72.9 million tax refund after declaring a sizable loss.
The revelation of Trump’s IRS woes comes just two days after he revealed his Black Economic Empowerment: The Platinum Plan in Atlanta. Along with promising to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan as a terrorist organization and making Juneteenth a federal holiday, Trump also claimed a second term would include efforts to bolster Black economic prosperity.
When it comes to the distribution of wealth in this country, the Tax Policy Center at Urban Institute & Brookings Institution shows that current tax policies “exacerbate income and wealth inequalities stemming from long-standing discrimination in areas such as housing, education and employment.” It’s why Trump can seemingly get away with paying no taxes after the “financial wreckage” from bad real estate decisions in Atlantic City casinos, an airline business and the purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, while Black Americans have a hard time getting approved to buy real estate.
“How is it that we talk about everyone paying their fair share and then the president, who claims to be a billionaire, hasn’t been held to that same standard?” Tamika Covington, who is Black, tells ESSENCE. “$750?!! There isn’t that much tax write-off in the world.”
Covington has had her own dealings with the IRS. About 15 years ago, the school clinician based in New York City, filed her first taxes at around age 19. She expected to use the money from her tax return to buy a laptop for her college studies. Instead, the IRS shocked her by saying she omitted her part-time gigs at a summer youth camp and retailer in previous years and now owed about $4,000 dollars in back taxes.
“I was devastated,” Covington recalls. “I didn’t have that kind of money, but I paid every dime of it.”
Because Covington’s mother claimed her as a dependent during the years she did not pay taxes, a CPA directed her not to file separately. “We thought it would be double-dipping” Covington, who ended up going on a payment plan with the IRS, explains. “We had no idea that we were supposed to do both…. The working class gives up everything to pay their fair share but the President, he gets another pass.”
When announcing the Black Economic Empowerment plan Trump said, referring to Joe Biden and Democrats, “They only care about power for themselves, whatever that means. My opponent is offering Black Americans nothing but the same old tired, empty slogans,” Trump argued. However, some Black Americans see Trump’s taxes as reaffirming the narrative that the system was created to bolster powerful and wealthy White Americans while Black Americans are left to deal with inequity and income inequality.
When ESSENCE reached out to the Trump campaign to address the message his tax data could be sending to Black America, a senior campaign official pointed us to a statement made by Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, who said that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate,” regarding the newly released NYT article.
The official also pointed us to a 2016 New York Times article that similarly reported Trump could have avoided taxes for nearly two decades after declaring a $916 million loss in 1995. And he “reminded” us that DNC Chairman Tom Perez pledged in 2019 that Democrats would “not tolerate the theft and dissemination of private data” collected from our adversaries.