What Was Trump Doing In 2005? His Tax Return Doesn't Tell You Much Of Anything
President Donald Trump is in the news yet again after his 2005 tax return was leaked. The information was presented by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Tuesday night, and no new bombshells came out — except perhaps that Trump did, in fact, pay taxes that year. But what was Trump doing in 2005? The leaked tax return is just the 1040 form, which summarizes what he makes and owes; it really doesn't show us much of anything concrete about his business activity.
As The Atlantic put it, the "biggest questions" around Trump's taxes are the source of his income, investments, and deductions. We don't get the specifics on that from the two sheets of paper that almost all taxpayers fill out. "If answers to them exist in Trump’s tax forms, they’re on the schedules, forms, and supplemental materials that accompanied them," Matt Ford wrote for The Atlantic. All we can do is guess where his income came from.
That's especially true of the non-salary income. The business income, taxable gains, and rental real-estate loyalties make up the bulk of his income. Other than his long-running position at the Trump Corporation as chairman and vice president, we don't know squat about his business ties and transactions. Where are his real estate holdings? What investments did make money on? All that is still a mystery.
Whatever one makes of the 2005 Trump tax return, one thing is clear: Trump should release his complete tax returns for the last decade.— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) March 15, 2017
What we do know from 2005 is that he was making money from NBC for his role as producer and host of The Apprentice. That gig began in 2004, and was, over the years, quite lucrative for Trump. His campaign said in 2016 that he had made more than $213 million from the show over the years, which would put his per-season earnings around $16 million. Clearly that grew over time because his total salary — assuming that's where his Apprentice earnings would go — was just under $1 million.
Another venture that we do know Trump began in 2005 was Trump University. According to a resume put together by The Guardian, Trump started the venture that year. Of course that "mentorship program" turned into a headache later when the president was sued for fraud in 2013. The New York attorney general at the time called it a scam. Trump settled for $25 million last year. However, Trump has not admitted fault.
To figure out how much he made from the venture that year, as well as all his other projects, businesses, and especially investments, more would need to come out. The 1040 is just a summary of the total he paid — and the only thing we know from that is that his tax plan would lower his own taxes, by a lot. For a comprehensive look at what Trump was up to in 2005, he would need to release his entire tax return — not to mention years before and after.
This leak released on The Rachel Maddow Show may be interesting, but it doesn't tell us near enough.