US House committee votes to release Donald Trump’s tax records

A congressional committee has voted to release Donald Trump’s previously confidential tax returns, in a move that could shed new light on the former president’s finances following a years-long legal stand-off.

The House ways and means committee made the move on Tuesday after a closed-door meeting, just days before Republicans are due to regain control of the House of Representatives.

Trump has long refused to publish his tax returns even though it has become a common practice for sitting presidents and presidential candidates. Democrats had sought to gain access to his tax records from the Internal Revenue Service since winning the House majority in 2018 but were unable to do so until this year, when the Supreme Court ruled that the committee could obtain them.

The tax returns reviewed by the ways and means committee relate to six years from the time Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015 to his last full year in the White House in 2020. The committee did not immediately release the returns because sensitive personal information needed to be redacted, but they are expected to be published in the coming days.

Richard Neal, the committee’s Democratic chair, said one finding was that the IRS under Trump had not complied with a legal requirement dating back to Richard Nixon’s presidency to perform a mandatory audit of the president’s tax returns.

This is a major failure of the IRS under the prior administration and certainly not what we had hoped to find,” Neal said.

The committee also released a summary of both Trump’s personal tax returns and those of some of his business entities from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who sits on the ways and means committee, said overall they showed that Trump had “had big deductions, big credits and big losses — but seldom a big tax bill”.

“Though this is a very narrow glimpse at the ex-president’s claimed finances for a few moments in time, this inquiry has unearthed many questions about how someone who claimed to be so rich can avoid so many taxes and about how the IRS could fail to initiate an audit for so long,” Doggett added.

The JCT said it did not have any investigatory powers and was unable to interview IRS agents so it could “express no opinion” about whether Trump should have paid more or less in taxes. However, it did highlight some areas of Trump’s tax returns that “warranted examination”, including interest income from related-party loans made to some of Trump’s children, as well as some of the deductions, charitable contributions and foreign tax credits claimed by the former president on his tax returns. 

Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the ways and means committee who represents a district in Texas, warned it would set a dangerous precedent for Congress to release a citizen’s tax returns, which in the future could extend to “political enemies, business and labour leaders, or even the returns of Supreme Court justices”.

“No party in Congress should have that power,” he said. “No individuals in Congress should have that power. It’s the power to embarrass, to harass or destroy Americans through disclosure of their tax returns.”

The decision to release the returns comes after the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol recommended to the Department of Justice that it should criminally charge Trump for aiding the insurrection, in another big blow to the former president.

Despite a string of legal and political setbacks — including the fact that several of his preferred candidates lost key races in the midterm elections last month — Trump has launched a new bid for the White House in 2024.

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