Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Trump's Tax Returns to Be Released Friday after Long Fight

Fri 30 Dec 2022 | 11:42 AM
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada June 18, 2016.   REUTERS/David Becker/Files
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada June 18, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker/Files
By Ahmad El-Assasy

On Friday, a House committee will make public six years' worth of Donald Trump's tax returns, lifting the veil off the financial information that the former president fought for years to keep private.

The House Ways and Means Committee, which is controlled by Democrats, decided last week to disclose the returns with minor redactions of private data, including Social Security numbers and contact information. They are being disseminated as the House Democratic majority is about to expire and as Trump's fellow Republicans get ready to regain the majority.

The investigation into what the committee claimed in a report on December 20 was the Internal Revenue Service's failure to pursue mandatory audits of Trump on a timely basis during his presidency, as required by the tax agency's protocol, resulted in the committee obtaining six years' worth of Trump's personal and business tax records, from 2015 to 2020.

The disclosure could lead to fresh information regarding Trump's finances, which have been a source of mystery and interest ever since his emergence as a promising Manhattan real estate developer in the 1980s. The fact that Trump has started a third presidential campaign may give the results more relevance.

The most comprehensive picture of Trump's finances during his tenure as president is expected to be provided by his tax returns.

Trump defied political conventions by refusing to release his tax returns while running for president, though he did provide some limited information about his holdings and income on required disclosure forms. Trump is known for building skyscrapers and hosting a reality TV show before winning the White House.

Instead, in order to obtain loans from banks and maintain his position on lists of the world's billionaires, Trump has bragged about his riches in annual financial statements he provides to those institutions and to financial publications.

Since then, the statements have been denied by Trump's longtime accounting company, and New York Attorney General Letitia James has launched a lawsuit, saying that Trump and his Trump Organization exaggerated asset values on the statements as part of a long-running scam. Both Trump and his business have denied any wrongdoing.

Trump's tax returns have previously been the subject of inquiry. Trump received the equivalent of at least $413 million in today's dollars from his father's real estate holdings in October 2018, according to a Pulitzer Prize-winning series by The New York Times based on leaked tax records. A large portion of that money came from what the Times called "tax dodges" in the 1990s.

Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018 and no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, according to a second series in 2020, because he typically lost more money than he made.

The Ways and Means Committee suggested in its report from last week that the Trump administration may have ignored a post-Watergate regulation requiring audits of a president's tax returns.

More than two years into Trump's presidency, the IRS finally started to look into his 2016 tax returns on April 3, 2019, after Ways and Means head Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., requested information about the returns.

According to Andrew Bates, a White House spokeswoman, President Joe Biden's tax returns for the years 2020 and 2021 were audited. According to a representative for the previous president, Barack Obama, each of his eight years in office included an audit.

Trump's carryover losses, deductions for charity contributions and environmental causes, and loans to his children that may be taxable gifts are just a few of the issues that the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation of Congress noted in an accompanying report.

In response, the House approved a bill requiring audits of any president's tax returns. Republicans vehemently opposed the legislation, arguing that mandatory audits would violate taxpayer privacy and open the door to their being used as a political weapon.

Republicans have claimed that Democrats will regret the decision once they get control of the government in January, and they have cautioned that the new GOP chair of the committee will face pressure to find and make public the tax returns of other notable individuals.

The bill, which was largely approved along partisan lines, has little prospect of passing this Congress before it adjourns. Instead, it is viewed as a beginning point for later initiatives to strengthen presidential oversight.

Since Richard Nixon, every president and major-party candidate has voluntarily made at least brief summaries of their tax returns available to the public. With his frequent claims that his taxes were "under audit" and couldn't be revealed, Trump defied this tendency both as a candidate and as president.

The Ways and Means Committee's request for access to Trump's tax returns was repeatedly rejected by Trump's legal team. A federal appeals court panel of three judges upheld a previous court decision granted the committee access in August.

Additionally, Trump's attorneys lost twice in the Supreme Court in their attempt to prevent the Manhattan district attorney's office from obtaining Trump's tax papers as part of its probe into his business operations.

At the Trump Organization's recent Manhattan criminal trial, Donald Bender, Trump's longtime accountant, testified that Trump claimed losses on his tax returns every year for a decade, including roughly $700 million in 2009 and $200 million in 2010.

Bender, a partner at Mazars USA LLP who spent years preparing Trump's personal tax returns, claimed that net operating losses from some of the numerous companies he controls through the Trump Organization were included in Trump's reported losses from 2009 to 2018.

The Trump Organization was found guilty of tax fraud earlier this month for aiding some executives in evading taxes on company-provided benefits including houses and expensive cars.