House committee releases Donald Trump’s tax returns

Politics

(NewsNation) — Democrats in Congress released six years’ worth of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns on Friday.

The returns are from 2015 to 2020, and show big changes year-to-year in Trump’s income tax and his reported losses. As expected, they include redactions of some sensitive personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers. But they also show how Trump used the tax code to lower his tax obligation and reveal details about foreign accounts, charitable contributions and the performance of some of his highest-profile business ventures, which had largely remained shielded from public scrutiny.

Trump reported having bank accounts in China, Ireland and the United Kingdom in 2015 through 2017, according to the filings. Starting in 2018, however, he only reported an account in the U.K., the Associated Press reported. The returns also show that Trump claimed foreign tax credits for taxes he paid on various business ventures around the world, including licensing arrangements for use of his name on development projects and his golf courses in Scotland and Ireland.

Trump paid $641,931 in federal income taxes in 2015, the year he began his campaign for president, according to a report released last week by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. He paid $750 in 2016 and 2017, nearly $1 million in 2018, $133,445 in 2019 and nothing in 2020, the year he unsuccessfully sought reelection. In 2018, according to Joint Committee on Taxation figures, Trump paid more in foreign taxes than he did net federal income taxes.

The Joint Committee on Taxation report raised multiple red flags about aspects of Trump’s tax filings, including his carryover losses, deductions tied to conservation and charitable donations, and loans to his children that could be taxable gifts.

For 2020, more than 150 of Trump’s business entities listed negative qualified business income, which the IRS defines as “the net amount of qualified items of income, gain, deduction and loss from any qualified trade or business.” In total for that tax year, combined with nearly $9 million in carryforward loss from previous years, Trump’s qualified losses amounted to more than $58 million for the final year of his term in office.

The documents show that Trump’s charitable donations fluctuated during his presidency but, in his final years, represented only a sliver of his income. In 2020, the year the coronavirus ravaged the economy, Trump reported no charitable donations at all.

It’s unclear whether the reported sums included Trump’s $400,000 annual presidential salary, which he had said he would forgo and claimed he donated to various federal departments.

The returns also detail how Trump used tax law to minimize his liability, including carrying forward massive losses from previous years, as allowed by tax law. Trump said during his 2016 campaign that paying little or no income tax in some years “makes me smart.”

His tax returns show he did that by structuring his company as a massive sole proprietorship, with nearly every dollar, pound, euro and yuan passing through his golf courses, hotels and other assets affecting — and in many cases helping — his own bottom line.

The longtime businessman’s finances have been a subject of public curiosity since his 2016 presidential run, when Trump broke political norms by refusing to release his tax returns.

Last week, a Democratic-controlled committee voted to release them.

The vote happened the same day the panel released a report that spelled out the IRS’ failure to pursue mandatory audits of Trump on a timely basis during his presidency.

The report indicated the Trump administration may have disregarded an IRS requirement dating back to 1977 that mandates audits of a president’s tax filings, according to the AP.

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee said making the returns public was necessary to understand the context of its report, which also included legislation that would mandate the IRS to audit presidents.

The IRS began audits of Trump’s 2016 tax filings more than two years into his presidency and on the same day, the panel’s chairman Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., asked the IRS for information related to Trump’s tax returns.

“A president is no ordinary taxpayer,” Neal said in a statement. “They hold power and influence unlike any other American. And with great power comes even greater responsibility.”

The House Ways and Means Committee initially requested Trump’s tax returns in April 2019, but then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to turn them over.

In a 2016 interview with the AP, Trump said he would release his tax returns after a “routine audit” was complete. Trump, however, reversed course after winning the presidential election and chose not to release them, first reported during an interview with then-White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on ABC’s “This Week.”

The timing of this release today remains notable with Trump in the midst of a third bid for the White House. One thing sure to continue after today will be the claims from Republicans that Democrats used these returns as a political weapon.

“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,” Trump said in a statement Friday. “The radical, left Democrats have weaponized everything, but remember, that is a dangerous two-way street!”

Meanwhile, Democrats will likely continue to bring up how the IRS did not audit the former president in 2017 and 2018.

“These findings underscore the fact that our tax laws are often inequitable, and that enforcement of them is often unjust,” Rep. Don Beyer, (D-Virginia) said in a statement. “Trump was able to bypass even the mandatory IRS presidential audit program for years, but many other wealthy and powerful people evade billions in tax dues every year through more quotidian tax avoidance. Congress has so much work to do to make tax enforcement in this country fairer.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

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