Despite California’s Trump-targeting law requiring candidates to release their tax returns in order to be listed on the ballot for the state’s 2020 primary, the president’s tax filings remain as opaque as they were when he dipped his elevator shoes into politics in 2015. But Trump’s tax elusivity does not hold up abroad, as the president has to file detailed balance sheets in the United Kingdom for his Scottish golf courses: Trump International outside Aberdeen and Trump Turnberry in Ayrshire. According to numbers from the U.K. filings published by HuffPost, the president’s resorts abroad aren’t doing as hot as he says they are.
In a 2018 U.S. filing, Trump claimed that his courses in Ayrshire and Aberdeen were each worth over $50 million, but in the U.K., the balance sheets showed that their combined debt exceeded assets by the equivalent of $64.8 million. In a 2018 public financial disclosure filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, he stated that the U.K. golf courses made a profit of $23.8 million, though filings in the U.K. for that same time period showed a loss equal to $6.3 million. In addition, the U.S. disclosure does not mention the $199.5 million in loans Trump has made to his U.K. Scottish links, made up of a $54.9 million personal loan to Trump International and $144.6 million from his trust to Trump Turnberry.
Aside from the continued embarrassment of being a TV businessman who proves time and again to be bad at business, the $165 million discrepancy between the U.S. and U.K. filings could put Trump in further legal trouble. Providing false or incomplete information in a public financial disclosure form is a violation of the Ethics in Government Act punishable by up to a year in jail; putting his EKG signature on a form attesting false information is the equivalent of making a false statement and is punishable by up to five years in prison. (Of course, if the Office of Special Counsel that enforces the law does look into Trump’s misreporting as a possible violation, it will have to get in line behind state and federal authorities investigating Trump’s hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels; his sketchy inauguration funding; his New York state-tax history; and the Trump Organization’s business practices.) “The numbers don’t appear to add up,” ethics-law expert Virginia Canter told HuffPost, adding that OGE regulations allow a decent amount of leeway in determining asset value. “That said, it’s not at all clear after reviewing the U.K. balance sheet for Aberdeen how they came to $50 million … I think it raises legitimate questions.”
Trump’s golf resorts in the British Isles have served as a peak behind the curtain of the Trump Organization before. Despite calling climate change “a total hoax,” “bullshit,” and “pseudoscience,” Trump cited “global warming and its effects” in a zoning application to build a seawall at his course in Ireland in 2016. Like his willingness to accept climate science, the president’s interest in financial transparency appears to end at the American border.