On Tuesday night a portion of Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns were revealed by Trump biographer David Cay Johnston on the Rachel Maddow Show. The documents indicate that Trump claimed positive income of over $150 million (after deductions his adjusted gross income was about $49 million) and paid $38 million in taxes in 2005. That same year, Trump told Forbes that his net worth tripled.
Back then the New York real estate market was sizzling, and Trump was in the process of launching Trump University and developing his gold-windowed Las Vegas hotel with friend and partner Phil Ruffin. A 2005 note in Forbes’ archives from a reporter at the time shows that Trump was extremely bullish about the year he was having: “Spoke to Donald today who tells me his net worth tripled in the past year.”
Such boasts have always been common from Trump, who has spent more than three decades lobbying for a higher spot on Forbes’ billionaire rankings. For the 2005 Forbes 400 list, Forbes estimated Trump’s net worth at $2.7 billion — up just $100 million from the previous year. It was of course a much, much lower number than the nearly $8 billion that Trump’s comments to Forbes implied.
The limited tax information made public on Tuesday does not directly indicate what Trump’s net worth was at the time. The rest of that year’s returns, however — which likely contain more detailed data on sources of income, partnerships and debt — could help shed light on the state of his fortune in 2005.
But claiming such a massive one-year gain is bold, even by Trump’s standards. If it’s true, the income figures on his tax returns from that year are likely to be larger than those for a typical 12-month period, meaning Trump’s income — and taxes — could very well be lower in other years than they were in 2005. In October the New York Times released part of Trump’s 1995 tax returns, which showed adjusted gross income of -$916 million.