The powerful committee voted along party lines last week to release the tax returns after the Supreme Court rejected the former commander-in-chief’s request to block the IRS from giving the records to lawmakers. The documents, redacted to omit information such as Social Security numbers, cover the years 2015 to 2020 and include both individual and business filings.
The newly released records provide about 6,000 pages of information on how Trump handled his taxes; he often used various deductions and business losses to decrease the amount he owed to the federal government. A report released last week by the Joint Committee on Taxation revealed how much Donald and Melania Trump, filing a series of joint returns, owed in taxes for each of the six years. The couple paid a combined $1.1 million in 2018 and 2019, as well as $750 in 2017.
“A president is no ordinary taxpayer. They hold power and influence unlike any other American. And with great power comes even greater responsibility,” Ways And Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) said in a press release. “Our work has always been to ensure our tax laws are administered fairly and without preference, because at times, even the power of a president can loom too large.”
Members of the House Ways and Means Committee previously argued that the IRS failed to adhere to the agency’s own guidelines by neglecting to audit Trump during his first two years in office and only started examining Trump’s 2015 income tax return on the same day in 2019 that the panel requested the information. “The former President’s individual income tax returns filed in 2018, 2019, and 2020 were not selected for examination until after he left office and only the 2016 tax return was subject to a mandatory examination,” the lawmakers’ report said.
Trump contested the release of the documents, which did not provoke charges of illegality from lawmakers, in a Friday statement. “The Democrats should have never done it, the Supreme Court should have never approved it, and it’s going to lead to horrible things for so many people,” he said. “The ‘Trump’ tax returns once again show how proudly successful I have been and how I have been able to use depreciation and various other tax deductions as an incentive for creating thousands of jobs and magnificent structures and enterprises.”
Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) said in an emailed statement that the efforts to publicize the documents were political in nature, adding that the release of the tax returns will enable future lawmakers to target private citizens with impunity.
“Americans now have confirmation that there was never a legislative purpose behind the public release of these confidential records and that the IRS was conducting audits prior to Democrats’ request,” he remarked. “Despite these facts, Democrats have charged forward with an unprecedented decision to unleash a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president, overturning decades of privacy protections for average Americans that have existed since Watergate.”
Trump, who announced a third bid for the White House last month, has also contended that the release of his tax records was politically motivated. Presidential candidates generally publicize their tax returns, although the move is not required by law.
Neal introduced the Presidential Tax Filing and Audit Transparency Act, which would require annual audits for the commander-in-chief. The House of Representatives greenlit the bill last week, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), and three other Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues in favor of the legislation.