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Did Trump donate his salary in 2020? Tax returns don’t tell full story

When former president Donald Trump’s tax returns have been issued publicly Dec. 30, some information reviews advised he did not donate his salary in 2020 — thereby breaking a campaign pledge — as a result of the tax returns confirmed $0 of charitable presents.

Nevertheless, it is unclear from the accessible information if he did or did not break his promise, attributable to how sure info is reported on tax returns, accountants mentioned.

This is why: Trump reported a unfavourable adjusted gross earnings in 2020, his final yr in workplace. He did not pay federal earnings tax as a result of he did not have any taxable earnings.

Trump’s -$4.8 million adjusted gross earnings in 2020 largely stemmed from $15.7 million in reported enterprise losses that yr from earnings sources like sure actual property, partnerships and S companies, based on the tax returns. The Home Methods and Means Committee launched six years of Trump’s returns — 2015 to 2020 — after a prolonged struggle to make them public.

Taxpayers who itemize their tax deductions (as an alternative of claiming a regular deduction) typically get a tax break for his or her charitable contributions. However that is not the case in the event you report unfavourable earnings and do not pay earnings tax; you may’t get a tax deduction if there is no earnings from which to deduct.

Nevertheless, taxpayers can “carry forward” that unused tax break to future years — successfully utilizing previous charitable donations to scale back their tax invoice later.

Trump might have performed this in 2020 — although, once more, it is unclear. This “carry forward” tax maneuver is usually reported on an announcement that is separate from the Schedule A type that outlines annual itemized deductions, accountants mentioned.

And that assertion — usually a supporting doc that is hooked up to the tax return — wasn’t among the many publicly launched tax varieties, mentioned Hal Terr, a Princeton, New Jersey-based licensed monetary planner and tax associate at accounting agency Withum, Smith and Brown.

With out that type, it is unclear whether or not Trump reported a charitable deduction in 2020 and plans to make use of the related tax profit in future years.

“By looking at the return, you can’t say whether he did or didn’t without looking at the carryforward schedule,” Terr mentioned.

A Trump spokesperson did not return a request for touch upon this story. Trump had donated his $400,000 annual salary whereas in workplace in prior years.

IRS typically limits tax deductions for charitable presents

The IRS typically limits the value of tax deductions for charitable donations, relying on the sort and worth of the present and what sort of qualifying group you give it to. Taxpayers can usually deduct the worth of presents totaling as much as 60% of their AGI after they donate money to a public charity, for instance. The restrict is 30% for non-cash property, like shares, held for greater than a yr.

Taxpayers can faucet any unused tax profit for as much as 5 years.

How these carryforwards present up on tax returns might differ considerably relying on the tax preparer and tax return software program, accountants mentioned.

For instance, in 2017, Trump additionally reported a unfavourable adjusted gross earnings, of -$12.9 million. That yr, his Schedule A notes $1.86 million of charitable presents made by money or examine. He could not deduct these presents attributable to his unfavourable earnings, however the tax return references “STMT 16” — an obvious reference to an hooked up assertion outlining a carryover of these donations.  

There is not the same reference to a tax assertion on Trump’s 2020 return — however that does not imply the carryover did not happen.

“I think the difference is there are two different tax providers [and] how they prepare the return,” Terr mentioned.

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