Fact check: Trump donated portions of presidential salary to agencies, contrary to viral claim
By Sudiksha Kochi, USA TODAY,2023-02-02
The claim: Trump's tax returns prove he never donated his salary
A Dec. 23, 2022, Instagram post ( direct link , archived link ) shows a screenshot of a profanity-laced tweet about former President Donald Trump's annual salary while in the White House.
"all you d------ screamed at me for four years that DoNaLd TrUmP dOnAtEs HiS SaLaRy, well guess f------ what: his tax returns prove he never did," reads the tweet.
The post generated over 10,000 likes in less than three weeks. Similar posts have amassed hundreds of interactions on Instagram.
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Our rating: False
Tax experts told USA TODAY that Trump's tax returns show only the charitable contributions he reported – not whether he donated his own salary or where the contributions went. Multiple federal agencies told USA TODAY they received donations from part of Trump's salary.
Trump's returns show charitable contributions, not source of money
The House Ways and Means Committee released six years of Trump’s tax returns to the public on Dec. 30, 2022. The report includes more than 2,700 pages of individual returns from Trump and his wife and over 3,000 pages of returns on Trump’s business entities, as USA TODAY reported.
On Dec. 15, 2022, the Joint Committee on Taxation also released a report detailing Trump's tax returns.
Trump reported nearly $2 million in charitable donations in 2017 and a little over $500,000 in charitable donations in both 2018 and 2019 , according to his tax returns and the report. He didn't report any charitable contributions in 2020.
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There is no way to know from Trump’s tax returns whether the money he donated included his salary, as the post claims. The tax returns show only how much was donated and claimed in charitable contributions, Jeffrey Hoopes, research director at the UNC Tax Center, told USA TODAY in an email.
“Since money is fungible, it is unknowable whether he donated his salary, or whether he donated any more than he otherwise would have had he not got the salary, etc,” Hoopes said. “I would not support the claim that we could know that from his tax returns.”
Daniel Shaviro , a tax policy expert at New York University, agreed the returns don't indicate where the contributions went. Shaviro also told USA TODAY the returns don't confirm he made those contributions.
"He claimed sufficiently large charitable deductions in 2017-2019 ... but whether those deductions were actually made is not verified by the returns themselves," Shaviro said.
The Joint Committee on Taxation states in its report that it has inquired into whether Trump's cash contributions are "supported by required substantiation."
Liz Harrington, Trump's spokesperson, did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.
Trump did donate his salary
The Trump administration announced the donation of portions of Trump's salary to federal agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services , the National Park Service and the Small Business Administration , according to White House briefings.
These agencies confirmed to USA TODAY that Trump donated part of his annual presidential salary of $400,000.
Cynthia Hernandez, a spokesperson for the National Park Service, referred USA TODAY to a 2017 press release that states Trump donated over $78,000 from his salary to the agency to restore two projects at the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland.
Christina Carr, a spokesperson for the Small Business Administration, confirmed that the agency received Trump's 2018 second-quarter salary detailed in the White House press briefing.
Trump donated $100,000 of his salary to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2017, Kamara Jones, the department's acting assistant secretary for public affairs, told USA TODAY in an email.
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Jones also said Trump donated $100,000 of his salary to the department in 2018, $300,000 of his salary in 2019 and $100,000 of his salary in 2020.
Trump did not report any charitable contributions on his 2020 taxes. Hoopes said no one is legally required to report any donation on a tax return.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media user who shared the claim for comment.
AFP Fact Check also debunked the claim.
Our fact-check sources:
- Christina Carr, Jan. 4, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Cynthia Hernandez, Dec. 30, 2022, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Kamara Jones, Jan. 4, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Martin Press , Dec. 30, 2022, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Daniel Shaviro, Jan. 27, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Jeffrey Hoopes, Jan. 27, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- USA TODAY, accessed Jan. 27, Trump's 2017 tax return
- USA TODAY, accessed Jan. 27, Trump's 2018 tax return
- USA TODAY, accessed Jan. 27, Trump's 2019 tax return
- USA TODAY, accessed Jan. 27, Trump's 2020 tax return
- USA TODAY, Dec. 30, 2022, What we know about the 6,000 pages of Trump tax returns, Republican response and more: recap
- USA TODAY, Dec. 30, 2022, Read the Trump tax pdfs: Donald Trump's tax returns released
- New York Times, Dec. 30, 2022, Key Takeaways From Trump’s Tax Returns
- White House, Nov. 30, 2017, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric Hargan
- White House, Feb. 8, 2017, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer
- White House, Oct. 3, 2018, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, and National Security Advisor
- National Park Service, July 5, 2017, President Trump's Salary and Matching Funds to Restore Antietam National Battlefield
- New York Times, Dec. 20, 2022, Document: Report on Trump’s Tax Returns
- AFP Fact Check, Dec. 29, 2022, Trump tax report does not prove he retained presidential salary
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Trump donated portions of presidential salary to agencies, contrary to viral claim
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