The first two pages of Donald Trump’s 2015-2020 tax returns, recently released, offer insight into how he invests. Trump doesn’t appear to have invested most of his wealth in publicly traded stocks. From 2017 to his 2020 eligible dividends, his earnings were between $14,000 and he was $20,000. Based on the stock’s average dividend yield, this shows his $2 million stock portfolio from about $1 million. His eligible dividend income in 2015 and his 2016 was significantly higher (in 2015 he was $718,317 and in 2016 he was $292,068). This could suggest that at least in early 2015 he held more than $50 million in stock, but he sold most of it in 2015 and he in 2016. Alternatively, he may have received dividends from his privately held shares in his 2015 and his 2016 years, but not since.
His relatively modest dividend income contrasts with interest income, which fluctuated between $6.7 million and $11.3 million. Without knowing more about the source of the interest income, it is difficult to guess the principal amount. It can range from $100 million to $1 billion.
Capital gains peaked at $36 million in 2015. Most other years he was between $7 million and he was $11 million. The 2015 gain could be related to the sale of his stock portfolio, but it could also be related to the sale of real estate investments.
Combined, Trump’s real estate investments showed losses of $7 million to $17 million a year. This is likely due to depreciation and interest expense. Many real estate entrepreneurs have a property loss on their tax returns but have positive cash flow from their property because depreciation is a non-cash expense that is allowed as a deduction under tax law .
The 2015 tax return shows what appears to be a $77 million loss carryforward from the previous year, likely from real estate activity. This loss is used to offset earnings and is fully utilized.