For the first time, the public gets a chance to see the tax returns of former US President Donald Trump after the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee approved a motion to release said documents. The committee decided 24-16 to release the returns, with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans voting against.
The returns, spanning the years 2015 through 2020, could be made public within hours as part of two findings from the committee to the broader Congress on the IRS’s presidential audit system. The committee stated that personal information will be redacted from the records.
After winning a lengthy legal struggle that began in the spring of 2019, the committee has had access to Trump’s taxes for weeks. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal requested the first six years of Trump’s tax returns, as well as tax records for eight of his businesses, using an arcane section of the tax code known as 6013 to glean confidential tax information.
The same provision has been utilized for investigations by Ways and Means chairs, and the Joint Committee on Taxation used it to seek evidence regarding former President Richard Nixon’s taxes in the 1970s–however, Nixon voluntarily released some of his returns.
The highly anticipated meeting, which began publicly but swiftly moved into a closed, private session, had been planned for years but comes as Democrats face a decision on whether to release the former president’s tax returns in just days. While there is precedent for Ways and Means to divulge secret tax information, releasing it to the public would have significant political ramifications, given that Trump has already proclaimed his intention to run for president in 2024.
Recently, a New York jury convicted the Trump Organization — whose corporations were charged with improperly decreasing the tax it paid on executive pay by granting top managers “off the books” bonuses — on all 17 charges on Tuesday.
Republicans slammed the decision to release the returns, claiming that it heralds a new era of using personal financial information as a “political weapon.”
“This meeting actually sets a terrible precedent that unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president,” Ways and Means Republican leader Kevin Brady told reporters Tuesday. “We are unified in our concern the Democrats may today move forward with unprecedented action that will jeopardize the right of every American to be protected from political targeting by Congress.”
It has been a long contention with the former president when he decided not to release his tax returns during his stint at the White House. Trump defied decades of custom by refusing to release his tax returns during his presidential campaign and again after taking office in 2016. While there is no federal law requiring presidents to release their tax returns, the IRS has a presidential audit policy.
Trump paid “no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years – largely because he reported losing much more money than he made,” The New York Times reported in 2020. The self-proclaimed billionaire reported a $916 million loss on his 1995 tax return, theoretically allowing him to avoid income tax for nearly 20 years, the paper reported in 2016.
Democrats have long suggested that Trump’s taxes might give crucial information about whether the president was involved in any conflicts of interest that could influence his decision-making as president. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee argued that they required Trump’s tax returns to better understand the presidential audit program, which is designed to audit the returns of every newly elected president and vice president.
If the committee makes his tax returns public, it might reveal how wealthy Trump is, how much he has given to charity, and how much he has paid in taxes.
Information for this briefing was found via CNN, The Hill, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.