Release of Donald Trump’s tax return: House of Representatives committee votes on release of records

WASHINGTON– The Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to publicly release Donald Trump’s tax returns, which the former president has long sought to protect.

The committee’s chairman, Richard Neal, D-Mass., has been keeping a close eye on the panel’s actions, including whether the panel will meet in a public or private session. And if lawmakers go ahead with plans to release yields, it’s unclear how quickly that would happen.

But after a year-long battle that ultimately resulted in the Supreme Court clearing the way for the Treasury Department to send tax returns to Congress last month, Democrats are under pressure to act aggressively. The committee received tax returns for Trump and some of his companies for six years. And with just two weeks until Republicans officially take control of the House of Representatives, Tuesday’s meeting could be the last opportunity for Democrats to disclose all the information they’ve gathered.

Trump has long had a complicated relationship with his personal income taxes.

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As a presidential candidate in 2016, he broke a decades-old precedent by refusing to release his tax forms to the public. During a presidential debate that year, he boasted that he was “smart” because he doesn’t pay federal taxes and later claimed he would not personally benefit from the tax cuts he signed in 2017 that favored the extremely wealthy, and urged the Americans to simply take him at his word.

Tax records would have been a useful yardstick to gauge his business success. The image of a savvy businessman was key to a political brand honed during his years as a tabloid magnet and star of television show The Apprentice. They could also uncover any financial obligations — including foreign debt — that could affect its governance.

But Americans were largely in the dark about Trump’s relationship with the IRS until October 2018 and September 2020, when the New York Times published two separate series based on leaked tax records.

The Pulitzer Prize winner Article 2018 showed how Trump received the modern equivalent of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate holdings, much of that money coming from what the Times called “tax evasion” in the 1990s. Trump sued the Times and his niece, Mary Trump, in 2021 for providing the newspaper with the records. In November, Mary Trump petitioned an appeals court to overturn a judge’s decision to dismiss her allegation that her uncle and two of his siblings cheated her out of millions of dollars in a 2001 family settlement.

That Article 2020 showed that Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018. Trump hasn’t paid any income taxes at all for 10 of the last 15 years because he’s generally lost more money than he made.

The articles exposed deep injustices in US tax laws, as Trump, an alleged multi-billionaire, paid little in federal income taxes. IRS figures show the average taxpayer paid around $12,200 in 2017, about 16 times more than the former president.

Details of Trump’s foreign business income and debt levels were also included in the tax returns, which the ex-president ridiculed as “fake news.”

At the time of the 2020 articles, Neal said he sees an ethical issue in Trump overseeing a federal agency that he also struggles with legal filings.

“Now Donald Trump is the head of the agency he views as an adversary,” Neal said in 2020. “It is important that the IRS President’s auditing program remains free of interference.”

Manhattan prosecutors also obtained copies of Trump’s tax records in February 2021 after a lengthy legal battle that included two trips to the Supreme Court.

The office, then headed by District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm in 2019 for access to eight years of Trump’s tax returns and related documents.

The prosecutor’s office issued the subpoena after Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, told Congress that Trump had misled tax officials, insurers and business partners about the value of his wealth. Those allegations are the subject of a fraud lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James against Trump and his company in September.

Trump’s longtime accountant, Donald Bender, testified at the Trump Organization’s recent criminal case that Trump reported losses on his tax returns every year for over a decade, including nearly $700 million in 2009 and $200 million in 2010.

Bender, a partner at Mazars USA LLP who has spent years preparing Trump’s personal tax returns, said Trump’s reported losses from 2009 through 2018 included net operating losses at some of the many companies he owns through his Trump organization.

The Trump Organization was convicted of tax fraud earlier this month for helping some executives evade taxes on company-paid perks like apartments and luxury cars.

Current Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told The Associated Press in an interview last week that his office’s investigation into Trump and his businesses is continuing.

“We will follow the facts and continue to do our job,” Bragg said.

Trump, who refused to release his tax returns during his 2016 presidential campaign and four years in the White House while claiming he was subject to an IRS scrutiny, has argued there was little to be gleaned from the tax returns, despite his concerns fought to keep them private property.

“You can’t learn much from tax returns, but it’s illegal to release them if they don’t belong to you!” He complained on his social media network last weekend.

Republicans, meanwhile, have railed against the possible release, arguing that it would set a dangerous precedent.

Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the Republican leader of the Ways and Means Committee, accused the Democrats on the committee of “unleashing a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond President Trump and threatens the privacy of every American.”

“In the future, congressional partisans have almost unlimited power to target political enemies by obtaining and releasing their private tax returns in order to embarrass and destroy them,” Brady said in a statement. “We urge Democrats, in their rush to target former President Trump, not to unleash this dangerous new political weapon on the American people.”


Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Release of Donald Trump’s tax return: House of Representatives committee votes on release of records

Laura Coffey

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