What’s a Personal Financial Disclosure — and What Happens to Your Money If You Don’t File in Time?

Former President Donald Trump Talks To The Media at Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach, Florida, United States - 04 Apr 2023
Gary I Rothstein / UPI / Shutterstock.com

Personal financial disclosure laws have been in the news lately, mainly because of reports that former President Donald Trump failed to meet the deadline for reporting his own personal finances.

Trump, a 2024 presidential candidate, was warned in a letter from the Federal Election Commission that a $200 late fee could be imposed if he does not file disclosures within 30 days of the March 16, 2023 deadline, The New York Times reported. That window passes this week. As of Wednesday morning, April 12, Trump had still not disclosed his financial holdings. Last month, the FEC denied the ex-president’s request for a third extension.

“President Trump has significant financial holdings, and we have advised the Federal Election Commission that additional time is needed to file his financial disclosure report,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement.

The $200 late fee isn’t exactly a huge deterrent to a billionaire like Trump — which might explain why he has taken his time. When he does fill his disclosure, it will provide a glimpse into his businesses since leaving the White House in January 2021 after losing the previous year’s election to President Joe Biden.

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Trump is required to file the disclosure as part of a decades-old law that aims to weed out corruption in politics and government. He’s far from the only politician or government employee who must disclose their personal finances. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, here are other cases when disclosures are required:

  • Employees, including special government employees, whose positions are classified above the General Schedule (GS)-15 pay scale.
  • Employees whose rate of basic pay is fixed, other than under the General Schedule, at a rate equal to or greater than 120% of the minimum rate of basic pay for a GS-15.
  • Employees in positions which are excepted from the competitive service by reason of being a confidential or policy-making character.
  • Administrative law judges.

Financial disclosure reports are used to identify potential or actual conflicts of interest, the DOJ said on its website. If the person charged with reviewing an employee’s report finds a conflict, they “should impose a remedy immediately.”

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Financial disclosure laws don’t only apply to politics and government. Separate rules also apply to divorce cases, although these vary depending on where you live.

According to the Stange Law Firm, which has offices in four states, both spouses are required to submit financial disclosure statements in the divorce process. The disclosure must include a complete list of all assets and property. Divorcing spouses can usually retain ownership over their separate personal property, but they must divide their marital property according to state law.

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One thing you shouldn’t do is attempt to hide assets during the disclosure process. Regardless of the intention, “hiding assets from property division in any way can result in severe penalties, up to and including criminal prosecution for fraud,” according to Stange Law Firm.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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