DC — The White House On Tuesday, the Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee is set to vote on whether to release years of Donald Trump’s tax returns, which the former president has long attempted to keep secret.
Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, the committee’s chairman, has maintained tight control over the panel’s activities. It is also unclear how quickly the results would be released if lawmakers decide to press forward with plans to do so.
After a long legal struggle that was resolved by the Supreme Court sending the returns to Congress last month, Democrats are feeling intense pressure to take swift action. Six years’ worth of tax returns for Trump and his businesses were provided to the committee. Two weeks from now, Republicans will officially gain control of the House, so Democrats may have only one more chance to air their dirty laundry at Tuesday’s meeting.
Trump’s history with his individual income taxes goes back a long way. By refusing to submit his tax returns as a presidential candidate in 2016, he went against decades of tradition. In a presidential debate that year, he boasted about how “clever” he was for not paying federal taxes. Later, he asked Americans to take his word for it that he wouldn’t personally gain from the 2017 tax cuts he signed into law that rewarded individuals with extreme wealth.
His business success may have been evaluated more accurately with access to tax documents. During his time as a media darling and the host of “The Apprentice,” he developed a political brand centered on his image as a shrewd businessman. Moreover, they might expose any debts, domestic or otherwise, that could impact his ability to govern.
But until The New York Times published two series based on stolen tax records in October 2018 and September 2020, the general public had very little information about Trump’s dealings with the IRS.
The stories that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 detailed how Donald Trump Jr. inherited at least $413 million from his father’s real estate assets, much of it obtained through “tax dodges” in the 1990s. In 2021, Trump filed a lawsuit against the Times and his niece, Mary Trump, for releasing the documents to the media. Mary Trump filed an appeal in November asking a higher court to reverse a lower court’s judgment dismissing her allegation that her uncle and two of his siblings had scammed her out of millions of dollars in a 2001 family settlement.
Several studies in 2020 revealed that Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes between 2017 and 2018. As a result of his consistent negative cash flow over the past 15 years, Trump has not paid federal income taxes in 10 of those years.
Because Trump, a purported multi-billionaire, paid so little in federal income taxes, the articles brought to light serious disparities in the U.S. tax structure. The average taxpayer for 2017 paid nearly $12,200 in taxes to the IRS, or about 16 times as much as the previous president. The former president referred to the tax returns as “fake news” since they revealed information about Trump’s income from foreign operations and debt levels.
According to Neal’s comments in the 2020 stories, Trump’s leadership of a federal agency that he has sued is unethical. In 2020, Neal remarked, “Now, Donald Trump is the leader of the agency he considers a foe.” It is crucial that the IRS’s presidential audit program continues to operate independently.
After a lengthy court battle that included two trips to the Supreme Court, in February 2021 the Manhattan district attorney’s office also secured copies of Trump’s tax records. In 2019, the office subpoenaed Trump’s accounting company, at the time managed by District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., in an effort to get eight years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns and supporting paperwork.
After Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress that the president had lied to tax authorities, insurers, and business acquaintances about the value of his assets, the district attorney’s office issued the subpoena. New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a fraud complaint against Trump and his company in September, alleging the same thing.
Donald Bender, Trump’s longtime accountant, testified at the recent criminal trial against the Trump Organization that Trump had filed tax returns showing deficits every year for the past decade, including over $700 million in 2009 and $200 million in 2010.
According to Bender, partner at Mazars USA LLP and longtime preparer of Trump’s personal tax returns, net operating losses from some of the many businesses Trump controls through the Trump Organization were included in Trump’s stated losses from 2009 to 2018.
Earlier this month, the Trump Organization was found guilty of tax fraud for aiding certain executives in evading taxes on company-paid benefits including condominiums and fancy cars. In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Manhattan’s current district attorney, Alvin Bragg, said that his office is still looking into Trump and his businesses. We’re going to stick to the facts and do our job, Bragg added.
Trump has said there is little to be gathered from the tax returns despite his efforts to keep them private and has refused to release them throughout his 2016 presidential campaign and his four years in office, citing an ongoing IRS audit as his excuse. He griped about it on his social media over the weekend, saying, “You can’t learn much from tax returns, but it is illegal to reveal them if they are not yours!”
Republicans, meanwhile, have voiced strong opposition to the possibility of release, saying it may set a dangerous precedent. Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said that Democrats on the panel were “unleashing a dangerous new political weapon that stretches far beyond President Trump, and jeopardizes the privacy of every American.”
For the future, “partisans in Congress have practically unlimited authority to target political adversaries by acquiring and making public their private tax returns to disgrace and destroy them,” Brady stated in a statement. We caution Democrats against using this new political weapon on the American people in their haste to attack Trump and the Republican Party.
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