US Elections 2016

Trump discloses financial info but not his tax returns

A boat with a sign showing support for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump near Waterfront Park in Vallejo, California. The Federal Election Commission made public on Wednesday a 104-page financial disclosure form from Mr Trump.
A boat with a sign showing support for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump near Waterfront Park in Vallejo, California. The Federal Election Commission made public on Wednesday a 104-page financial disclosure form from Mr Trump.PHOTO: REUTERS

Document provides details of his vast business interests but not specific net worth

NEW YORK • Last August, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was busy igniting a feud with TV news anchor Megyn Kelly, getting under former Florida governor Jeb Bush's skin and flying around the country to thrill supporters with promises to build a wall on the Mexican border.

That month, Mr Trump announced a new hotel and tower in Bali, Indonesia. Then he embarked on a venture in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. And he soon set up another business in India with a focus on Kolkata.

While Mr Trump has hopped across the United States as a presidential candidate during the past year, it has been business as usual at the Trump Organisation's headquarters in New York, complete with new endeavours and international partnerships, according to entries in a 104-page financial disclosure form from Mr Trump that was made public on Wednesday by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

The document offered new details on the enterprises and a financial picture of Mr Trump. The form's limitations, however, made it impossible to calculate his specific net worth or to verify his claim that he is worth more than US$10 billion (S$13.8 billion).

Mr Trump's campaign said in a statement this week that the disclosure was "the largest in the history of the FEC", saying it would show "tremendous cash flow", including an increase in revenue, which was directed to new construction projects, reducing debt and funding the campaign, among other things.

A review of the disclosure form, which covers the period from January last year to the present, shows reported income of at least US$615 million, an increase from US$380 million a year earlier. Portions of the new income came from Mr Trump's sale of the Miss Universe franchise, as well as increased revenues from his golf courses and a reduction in some investment account holdings.

Mr Trump reported assets valued at a minimum of US$1.5 billion.

The FEC requires the forms so as to alert the government, and the public, about potential conflicts of interest for those seeking office. Candidates typically file the forms grudgingly, wary of divulging too much about their assets and debts, but Mr Trump has wielded his form like an advertisement of his wealth and success as a businessman.

By contrast, he has been unwilling to publicise his recent tax returns, a traditional disclosure by major party candidates that is not required by law. His tax returns could provide a more precise figure than the financial disclosures of how much he actually earns each year, as well as how much he pays in taxes.

Mr Trump has cited Internal Revenue Service audits as a reason for not releasing his returns, and has pointed to his personal financial disclosures - which provide dollar figure ranges, but not actual amounts - as giving an alternative view of his wealth and income.

He has increasingly relied on his adult children to manage aspects of the business, freeing him to focus on his campaign. But he is still involved, and the outsize disclosure form underscores the reach of his dealings - listing 564 "positions held" by him and 188 assets or sources of income.

But it also highlights the potential for conflicts down the road if he is elected, and shows how he has juggled his finances as he uses his own money for his campaign.

While Mr Trump added new businesses, some went away. In one instance, he sold the Miss Universe pageant amid a squabble with television partners over remarks about immigrants that he made during the campaign, a sale that resulted in income of about US$50 million.

Mr Trump has celebrated his ability to collect lucrative speaking fees. But his disclosure showed that he had halted that income stream during his campaign.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2016, with the headline 'Trump discloses financial info but not his tax returns'. Print Edition | Subscribe