By Tom Ozimek
When former President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017, he became the wealthiest commander-in-chief the nation ever had, but when he left the White House four years later, his net worth had shrunk by more than half, with recently released tax return data reinforcing his repeated statements that the presidency wasn’t making him any richer.
In 2015, when he was campaigning for president, Trump suggested his enormous wealth made him immune to lobbying and that, unlike his opponents, he couldn’t be bought.
Trump’s net worth in 2016, his last year before assuming the presidency, was $4.5 billion, according to Forbes.
By 2020, his final year in office, Forbes estimated that Trump’s net worth had plunged to $2.1 billion, a drop of more than half.
In 2019, when Trump’s net worth was estimated at $3.1 billion—well over a billion less than in 2016—the former president said he was unconcerned that becoming president was costing him a lot of money.
“Whether I lost $2 billion, $5 billion, or less, it doesn’t make any difference,” Trump told reporters in October 2019. “I don’t care. I’m doing this for the country. I’m doing it for the people.”
“If I had it to do it again I would do it in an instant, because who cares, if you can afford it, what difference does it make?”
Trump’s remarks that the presidency wasn’t making him any richer have been reinforced by recently released documents that provide insight into his tax returns.
While Trump’s full tax returns haven’t been released yet, the Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee recently published a report and some documents that reveal details about the former president’s income and taxes paid.
The documents show that Trump’s businesses sometimes reported substantial losses. For the six-year period from 2015 to 2020, Trump’s adjusted gross income was negative $53.2 million.
In 2020, Trump reported a loss of $4.8 million.
While the Forbes data show the presidency cost Trump over a billion dollars, his net worth has gone up since leaving office.
As of Dec. 23, Trump’s net worth is an estimated $3.2 billion, or #872 on the Forbes list of billionaires.
Trump is the only billionaire to have served as president of the United States. Not only does this fact make him unique among prior presidents, he’s also one of the few to lose money on his presidency.
Presidential Net Worth Before and After Taking Office
Historically, the U.S. presidency has served as a springboard to greater wealth, a trend that held true for the eight presidents before Trump.
According to a study of presidential net worth before and after taking office conducted by the American University in Washington, D.C., the eight presidents prior to Trump saw their net worth go up by between 45 percent (Ronald Reagan) and 6,150 percent (Bill Clinton). The study was done in 2017.
Former President Richard Nixon, whose net worth when he took office in 1969 was $2 million, ended up being worth around $15 million by the time he died in 1994, a jump of 650 percent.
Former President Gerald Ford grew his wealth by 400 percent from $1.4 million when he entered the White House in 1974 to $7 million when he died in 2006.
Former President Jimmy Carter, who at 96 years old is estimated to be worth $10 million, took office in 1977 with a net worth of $2.3 million, an increase of 335 percent.
Former President Ronald Reagan came into office with $10.6 million. By the time of his death in 2004, Reagan was worth $15.4 million, or around 45 percent more than when he entered the White House.
Former President George H.W. Bush was worth $4 million when he took office in 1989 and, by the time of his death in 2018 was worth $23 million, or a jump of 475 percent.
Former President Bill Clinton, who was worth $1.3 million when he came to power in 1993, has grown his wealth to $120 million, or an increase of 9,131 percent.
Former President George W. Bush, who entered office in 2001 with $20 million and is currently worth an estimated $50 million, saw his net worth rise by 150 percent.
Former President Barack Obama was worth $1.3 million when he entered the White House in 2009 and is now estimated to be worth $70 million, representing a gain of 5,285 percent.
Trump Tax Return Details
The documents released by the committee show that Trump’s businesses at times reported significant losses on tax returns, which can be used to offset tax liabilities.
For the six-year period covered by the tax return documents, Trump’s adjusted gross income was negative $53.2 million.
During two of those years, however, Trump reported positive adjusted gross income of $24.3 million in 2018 and $4.4 million in 2019.
The total federal tax liability over the six-year period—which includes self-employment and household employment taxes—was $4.4 million.
The slimmed-down “net tax” figure came to $1.8 million.
In three of those years—2015, 2016, and 2017—Trump reported an income tax liability of $750.
In 2018, he paid nearly $1 million in taxes, and in 2019, that figure was $133,445.
In 2020, Trump reported a loss of $4.8 million and paid $0 in federal taxes.