After years of refusing to turn out his tax returns and battling House Democrat attempts to get them, former President Trump may soon be forced to face tough questions about his finances.
Did he pay taxes? Is he as rich as he claims? Does he have financial conflicts of interest with US or foreign companies?
The Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee said Tuesday it would release Trump’s tax returns — which cover the years 2015 through 2020 — to the public for the first time.
The panel released a summary of the information and said actual returns – redacted to hide personal information like social security and bank account numbers – would be released within a week.
Here are five questions about the unprecedented move.
Could Trump get a last-minute court order to prevent his tax returns from being released?
It’s possible, but highly unlikely.
Trump has lost at every turn as he went to court to protect the privacy of his return.
Last month it was a one-line unanimous rejection by the Supreme Court.
His lawyers had filed an emergency motion warning that House Democrats would release the former president’s tax returns as soon as they received them.
The judges, three of whom were appointed by Trump, considered his appeal for several weeks but dismissed it without comment.
A federal judge appointed by Trump ruled that the law gives the Ways and Means Committee the power to obtain tax returns upon request. A US appeals court agreed 3-0.
After this record of defeat, it is difficult to imagine how a judge would now intervene.
However, it should be noted that in recent years federal judges have shown an increasing willingness to throw themselves into partisan struggles.
And with Republicans taking over the House of Representatives in January, even a brief injunction from a conservative judge could be enough to delay the release until Democrats hand over control of the House to the GOP.
– David G. Savage
What do the House summaries of Trump’s return show so far?
That he might not be such a big businessman after all.
As the 2016 presidential candidate, Trump said his business success gave him the skills to rule the nation.
But the 2015-2020 tax data reported by the House Committee tells a very different story.
Year after year, including during his tenure in the White House, Trump’s core business — rents, royalties and other revenue from hotels, golf courses and other real estate — has reported millions of dollars in losses.
In those six years, losses totaled more than $75 million.
Where Trump has had much better luck was in collecting interest income, which totaled $56.5 million from 2015 to 2020.
Previous reports from The New York Times showed that until 2017, most of that revenue came from Trump’s share of profits, which came from a partnership that controls two office towers in Manhattan and San Francisco — and over which Trump has no managerial authority.
– Don Lee
What is the IRS program that should audit the President?
The IRS’s mandatory audit program for presidents has its roots in the Nixon era, when questions arose about the IRS’s ability to audit the president’s tax returns, the report said.
In 1977, three years after Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment, the agency passed a policy requiring an annual review of both the president and vice president during their term in office. The permanent policy would help depoliticize the exam, the report said.
But committee members said the practice was not followed under Trump. They said that during the first two years of his presidency, no audit appeared to have taken place. Only one of Trump’s statements was subject to scrutiny during his tenure, the report said.
The IRS provides some insight into how the program works on its website. The location of the President’s and Vice President’s returns shall be constantly monitored during the examination, the papers shall be kept in an orange folder, in a locked drawer or cabinet when not viewed, and shall not be viewed by other employees.
There are still many unanswered questions, including what tax returns are audited, how many agents are involved in the audit, how long the audits take, and what happens when a president disagrees with the audit results.
— Erin. B. Logan
What are the chances of Congress passing legislation requiring future presidents to release their tax returns?
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) has introduced legislation that would require the Internal Revenue Service to establish a mandatory audit “as soon as possible” after the filing of a President’s income tax return to perform.
The bill would also require the Treasury Secretary to make the President’s statements public; inception, interim and final reports; and all exam materials.
The legislation comes after Democrats in the panel released a report on Tuesday that found “the mandatory testing program was at best inactive during the previous administration.”
With Congress set to leave for the New Year after passing a $1.7 trillion omnibus package this week, the legislation is unlikely to go anywhere this year.
But Neal expressed confidence that the measure has enough bipartisan support to pass a Republican-led House of Representatives and a Democrat-led Senate in the next Congress.
“I think it’s fair to say there’s going to be broad support for that, I think, in the House and Senate,” Neal told reporters. “I think that’s going to sail because if there’s anything from the talks we’ve had with Republicans over the past few days, they’d like to see something like that happen.”
A spokesman for the Ways and Means Committee Republicans did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
– Nolan D McCaskill
What did Trump say?
He’s been unusually quiet so far.
Trump did not immediately respond to the committee’s report on his taxes, although he has been vocal about previous efforts to free them.
After the Supreme Court ruled against him last month, he called the court a “political body” that had “lost its honor, reputation and reputation.”
— Arith John