updated 2:28 PM CEST, May 24, 2023

Donald Trump held overseas bank accounts while president, just-released tax returns reveal

Former U.S. president Donald Trump held overseas bank accounts while he was in office – in Ireland, the UK and China, between 2015 and 2017 – various media organizations have been reporting today, as details of Trump's personal and business finances continued to emerge, in the wake of Friday's release of his tax returns after a years-long legal battle.

These overseas accounts "were notable," a BBC report noted, pointing out that since Trump had been president from the end of 2017 onwards, he would have had "significant power over US foreign policy" during this time.

From 2018 onwards, he only held one overseas account, which was in the UK, the BBC report added, citing the just-released returns as its source.

It was not immediately clear whether Trump's overseas bank account information was included in FATCA (Foreign Bank Account) reports sent to the IRS by his overseas banks, or whether he filed Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBARs) annually, as he would be expected to do if the total of his holdings reached US$10,000 at any point during any of the tax years in question. However, tax industry executives told the American Expat Financial News Journal that it would have been exceptionally unusual if his accountants and other advisers didn't see to it that all necessary precautions and regulations along these lines were followed.

A little-known fact is that certain of Donald Trump's overseas bank accounts were actually revealed in October, 2020 by The New York Times. In a story headed "Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits," the article noted that China was, at that time, "one of only three foreign nations – the others [being] Britain and Ireland – where Mr. Trump maintains a bank account, according to an analysis of the president’s tax records, which were obtained by The New York Times."

The NYT article went on: "The foreign accounts do not show up on Mr. Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The identities of the financial institutions are not clear." 

Trump's Chinese bank account was said by aTrump Organization official quoted in the article to be related to  Trump International Hotels Management’s business activities in the country. The official declined to name the Chinese bank that Trump's account was with, and stressed that "no deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialized [for the hotel business in China] and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive."

As for the company involved with overseeing Trump's accountancy issues, until earlier this year, it was well-known in accounting circles to have been Mazars USA. However, in February, The New York Times, citing court documents, reported that the firm had "cut ties with him and his family business...saying it could no longer stand behind a decade of annual financial statements it had prepared for the Trump Organization." 

On Saturday, the last day of 2022, tax experts were still saying that it could be some days before a complete picture of the contents of Trump's tax returns, and what the findings were likely to mean politically, fully emerged. The release of the documents followed a years-long campaign by Democratic Party lawmakers, who argued that they ought to be made public because other presidential candidates had routinely done so. 

Meantime, one thing that the Republicans won't have to fear, some expat observers noted, is any accusation that Trump's till-now-undisclosed offshore holdings were responsible for his party's championing of a less-harsh treatment of Americans who have overseas accounts, including expatriate Americans. 

This is because the Republicans didn't make much of an effort to address certain expat bank account and taxation issues during the years that Trump was in office, apart from North Carolina Rep. George Holding, who introduced a bill called the Tax Fairness for Americans Abroad Act (TFFAAA) into the house in the final days of the 2018 legislative session, but struggled to find a Democrat to co-sponsor it. In the end it failed to advance, and disappeared when Rep. Holding left office at the end of 2020, following changes to his election district. 

Although the Republican Party is said to officially endorse the abolition of FATCA – the 2010 tax evasion-prevention law introduced by President Obama, which is widely blamed for having enabled the U.S. government to enforce its long-existing citizenship-based tax regime on expatriate Americans – the policy such as it is dates back to the previous election campaign period, in 2016.

When Mark Meadows – a Republican Party stalwart (also from North Carolina) who had introduced a bill aimed at repealing key elements of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in September, 2016 – was named Trump's chief of staff in March, 2020, there was some hope among expat Republicans that he might continue to focus on FATCA and other expat banking and tax issues, but the issue never reappeared during the brief time after that that he, and Trump, remained in the White House.