Democrats on the House Tax Interruption Committee voted in closed session Tuesday to make six years of former President Trump’s tax returns public — the culmination of years of Democratic efforts to obtain Trump’s financial records and actions that Republicans are considering. as a challenge because they run the House.
The returns cover the years 2015 to 2020 and could be released within days, Ways and Means Leader Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said after the vote. The return is attached to a two-pack of reports from the Ways and Means Committee to the broader Congress on the president’s oversight of the IRS.
The report is expected to be released this evening. Trump’s tax returns have been redacted to remove information such as bank accounts and Social Security numbers, and that process could take days, committee members said.
Democrats do not care about the contents of the returns before they are released to the public because private tax returns are protected documents and the IRS has not yet completed their audit. The chairman of the Republican committee said Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas) but there has not been a final decision on what Trump might owe in taxes for those years.
“I think we need to leave it to the tax,” Neal said.
The committee voted 24-16 to make the return public, with Democrats voting against and Republicans voting against.
Republicans blasted the decision to release the returns, warning that the move would usher in a new era of releasing private financial documents as “political weapons.”
“This meeting sets a terrible precedent that unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that goes far beyond any previous president,” Republican Ways and Means Leader Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told reporters on Tuesday.
“I’m not going to speculate on what the next Congress and this committee will focus on with regard to tax returns, but I know the IRS will be a big focus,” he said.
Progressive groups cheered on the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday after the tax report was released to the public.
“Tax justice starts at the top: if the president isn’t paying his fair share or is abusing the tax code, the American people have a right to know,” said Frank Clemente, director of Americans for Tax Fairness is a non-profit. statement.
“President [Richard Neal [(D-Mass.)] and Democrat Ways and Means is to be congratulated for pursuing this important information. Now they must share the fruits of their labor with the American people, the final arbiters of the moral acceptance of our elected leaders,” he said.
Some legal commentators have said that Democrats will take advantage of the audit process by making private tax payments to the public without conducting a major review of the audit program. the president that is the reason why Trump’s return appears.
“A rollback of the presidential surveillance program that starts now and ends when the GOP takes control of the House in January would be slapdash and pointless,” said University Professor Daniel Hemel. New York wrote for the website Lawfare earlier this month.
“Neal and the House Ways and Means Committee will be undermining their own credibility – and could be seen as misleading the judiciary and the public – if they continue to issue returns outside of the context of review. they are full of the president’s surveillance program,” he wrote. .
Tax experts have expressed skepticism about whether the documents obtained by the committee, which also obtained Trump’s financial records, are enough to support years of investigative reporting and paint a picture of Trump. to be an entrepreneur.
“It may be a case of too late,” Steve Rosenthal, an analyst at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said in an interview. “I don’t expect much, without a more thorough investigation.”
In 2020, The New York Times reported that “Trump has paid no income tax in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he has reported losing more money than he has earned.” Trump reported a $916 million loss on his 1995 tax return, theoretically allowing him to avoid income taxes for nearly 20 years, a 2016 report said.
Trump broke with a decades-long precedent of not releasing his tax returns during his presidential campaign, and also refused to do so after taking office in 2017. Although there is no federal law requiring the president to release his tax returns to the public, the president does. audit policy at the IRS.
The denial angered Democrats, who have often blasted Trump during his administration for his lack of transparency and his public image as a successful businessman.
After the Democrats won the House in 2018, Neal requested the return of each of Trump and those of eight of his companies as part of the audit investigation.
Neal told then-IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in a 2019 letter that the committee wanted information about how the IRS audits the president of the United States as part of internal and external procedures. the way he conducts business.
“It is important for the Committee to determine the scope of such an examination and whether it includes a review of the underlying business activities required to be reported on individual tax returns,” Neal said. wrote to Rettig.
Individuals’ tax returns are protected under federal law, but part of the tax code allows the Ways and Means Committee to gain access to private returns for ‘the purpose of control. By reporting to Congress in the performance of its oversight responsibilities, these returns can be legally disclosed.
In July 2021, the Department of Justice signed off on Neal’s request for access to Trump’s return, saying the committee “has requested sufficient cause to request the former president’s tax information.” first.”