Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns has everyone from Mitt Romney to Paul Krugman speculating as to what might be in them. But they may not be asking the right question. What is in the tax returns may be less important than where Mr. Trump filed them.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump has repeatedly called Florida his “second home,” all while touting his New York bona fides and embracing the 9/11 first responders. But do his tax returns tell a different story? Is he filing as a New York resident, or is he claiming his second home, Florida (which has no state income tax), as his primary residence in order to avoid paying income taxes in New York? Is he paying New York income tax to help fund the New York first responders, or is he depriving them of funding by claiming Florida residency?
This is not to say that Mr. Trump is in fact claiming Florida residency on his tax returns. Nor am I saying that claiming Florida residency would be unlawful. But I do think the voters of New York and Florida – and, indeed, the entire United States – have a right to know if Mr. Trump is paying (or not paying) state income tax as a New York or Florida resident.
Mr. Trump has balked at releasing his tax returns and claims there is nothing to be learned from them. Ok – let’s play that game. My questions do not require him to release any tax returns. A simple Twitter message will suffice. So, again I will ask, @RealDonaldTrump: Do you claim New York or Florida as your residence for purposes of income tax?
Of course, I wouldn’t be asking this question of a Trump Tower employee making at or near minimum wage, or any of the millions of other every day New Yorkers who get by on a median household income of $50K. Only the uberwealthy (think private jets) have the means to really pull off a “second home as primary home” ploy. But that’s where this gets interesting. Mr. Trump has been heard commenting about the lengths to which some New York elites go to avoid New York state and city income taxes. Is Mr. Trump among those elites? Does he go out of his way to visit Mar-a-Lago so frequently that he can claim his “second home” as his first home? Mr. Trump has stated quite candidly that he is in favor of “using the law” to his advantage, so one must ask, is he doing that here to avoid paying the income tax (up to 8.82% state, and up to 3.88% city) that his fellow New Yorkers pay?