Trump's Leaked 2005 Tax Return Is Just A Start

by Lani Seelinger
Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

So, Donald Trump's taxes are no longer a complete mystery. The world now knows at least something about how much of his income he paid to the federal government in 2005. But if you're following closely, then you know that his 2005 1040 form is really just a teaser, and there are many more pages to Trump's 2005 tax return that the media has not uncovered yet.

Before Rachel Maddow broke the big Trump tax story on her show on MSNBC, she had a substantial portion of the American public salivating with excitement about what exactly her scoop would be. And while Trump's 1040 form from 2005 is indeed an interesting and edifying document, there is a lot that remains to be seen.

I mean, think about your own tax returns. I make a teeny tiny fraction of what Trump makes any given year, and yet even for me, the 1040 is basically just a table of contents, listing the money I earned, the deductions I'm claiming, and the taxes I'm paying. But for each of the lines on that form with a number on it, there's another form somewhere that was filled out to get that number. And when we're talking about the president's taxes, it's nice to know the numbers — but it would be nicer to know where they're all coming from.

The White House did release an angry statement confirming that these were the true returns and calling the publication of them "illegal." But the content of the 1040 form basically couldn't be any better for them. It shows that Trump did pay a significant portion of his income that year in taxes, at about 25 percent. Mitt Romney received criticism when his tax returns showed that he had only paid 14 percent in taxes, so Trump avoids that. However, by keeping the rest of his tax returns hidden, he also avoids the criticism that could come from what they might reveal.

These tax returns don't show, for example, if Trump is really as charitable as he has often claimed. They don't show whom he is indebted to. It would be really helpful to know more about his investments or where those huge income figures come from, but these tax returns don't reveal this information.

Investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, the one who originally (and reportedly anonymously) received the tax returns, even ventured a guess that Trump had leaked the papers himself. Their limited nature is one of the primary pieces of evidence for that guess. Trump can now point to these leaked tax returns to show that he didn't dodge his responsibility in 2005 — while still dodging the major questions about his financial ties that haven't stopped dogging his young presidency. For exactly that reason, it's necessary to remember that while you can be glad to have this information, there's a lot more of Trump's tax returns that the public still has a right to know.