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House panel votes to release Trump tax information despite threats from Republicans – B87FM
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House panel votes to release Trump tax information despite threats from Republicans

Written by on December 20, 2022

  • The House Committee voted to release Trump’s tax returns
  • Republicans have warned releasing them could jeopardize the privacy of every American’s taxes.
  • Democrats have argued the tax returns could help guide lawmakers in writing tax legislation.

A House committee voted Tuesday to publicly release some of Donald Trump’s tax returns, despite Republican threats to retaliate against President Joe Biden and other Democrats.

It is not known exactly when the Trump tax documents will become available. Lawmakers said that personal information must be redacted from the documents, and the process could take at least a couple of days.

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee said releasing the Trump tax returns is in the public interest, and part of an effort to improve auditing procedures at the Internal Revenue Service.

“This was never about being punitive. It was never about being malicious,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the Democratic committee chairman, after a party-line vote following a closed-door debate that lasted more than four hours.

Trump did not immediately comment on the committee vote. 

Republicans denounced the move as a purely political precedent and said it could be used in the future to target many Americans.

“Regrettably, the deed is done,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Tex., the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.

The committee issued reports defending their investigation. Neal and others pointed to evidence that IRS did not audit Trump during his first two years in office, as is standard operating procedure Neal said it began an audit of Trump only after Congress requested Trump’s tax returns in 2019, and it has not been completed.

Neal and other lawmakers said Trump tax returns will be attached to a report to the full House regarding IRS auditing; sensitive personal information must still be redacted from the documents, including Social Security numbers and street addresses.

The panel had been seeking the returns since 2019 but only received them a few weeks ago, giving members little time to review them and draw conclusions that could influence tax legislation before Republicans take over the House in January. 

Committee on Ways and Means Members on both sides of the aisle debated the final step in a years-long fight to obtain Trump’s tax returns despite objections and legal challenges by the former president.

Experts are watching closely.

“More investigation is needed,” said Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute. “There’s not a lot of substantiation” on tax losses claimed by Trump, “and not a lot of information about the IRS handling of the audits” on Trump’s returns.

Will Trump’s taxes become public?:Here’s what to expect if a House panel votes to release them.

Documents arrive as the House Ways & Means Committee holds a hearing regarding tax returns from former President Donald Trump Dec. 20, 2022.

Here’s what’s happening now: 

Could a release of Trump’s tax returns set a precedent for others?

House Ways and Means Committee Republicans would have authority under Congress’ oversight authority to seek President Joe Biden’s tax returns, said Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

An IRS law enables federal lawmakers on congressional tax committees to seek presidential tax returns for a review of how the IRS conducts mandatory tax audits of the president. Ways and Means Democrats used the law to seek Trump’s returns. However, GOP lawmakers likely would not be authorized to cast a wide net, said Rosenthal.

“I don’t think (releasing Trump’s returns) opens the door for Republicans to ask for (presidential son) Hunter Biden’s tax returns,” he said. “Hunter Biden isn’t in the government.”

– Kevin McCoy

Democrats: No big tax bills for Trump 

Democrats did not disclose a lot of details about what exactly is in the Trump tax returns they are releasing. But there was an overarching takeaway: Trump didn’t pay so much in taxes.

“Donald Trump had big deductions, big credits, and big losses,” Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett said after voting to release the materials, “But seldom a big tax bill.”

News reports over the years have disclosed that Trump paid no federal taxes at all in some years, often because of income losses reported in prior years. Doggett skewered the Internal Revenue Service for not conducting audits sooner.

“The success of our inquiry underscores the failure of Trump’s IRS to hold him accountable by failing to initiate timely, thorough Presidential audits – none of which have yet been completed,” Doggett said. “Trump claimed tens of millions of dollars in losses and credits without the type of substantiation an ordinary taxpayer would likely provide.”

– David Jackson, Donovan Slack

Trump aide blasts vote to release his taxes: ‘unprecedented leak by lameduck Democrats’

Donald Trump hasn’t commented yet, but his campaign spokesman denounced the committee’s vote to release Trump’s tax returns as purely political. 

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung accused Democrats of greenlighting an “unprecedented leak,” a move that is “proof they are playing a political game they are losing.”

“If they are so hell-bent on releasing President Trump’s tax returns — which show he built a very successful business and created numerous lucrative assets throughout his career — they should release the tax returns of Nancy Pelosi.”

Cheung lobbed accusations that the outgoing House Speaker and her husband benefitted financially from her position and said Congress should investigate them.

“If this injustice can happen to President Trump, it can happen to all Americans without cause,” Cheung said.

For her part, Pelosi said the committee’s work “makes clear the legislative steps that must now be taken to guard the public trust,” and Congress should act on legislation “requiring the Internal Revenue Service to conduct an annual audit of the President’s finances.”

– Donovan Slack and David Jackson

Government watchdogs applaud vote to release Trump taxes

Public interest groups took a victory lap after House Democrats voted to release former President Donald Trump’s tax returns

“This is welcome news and a victory for the American people and transparency,” said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of nonprofit advocacy organization Public Citizen. “The committee should release these documents as quickly as possible.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Trump should have released the returns voluntarily, like every other president since the 1970s.

“The House Ways and Means Committee has finally righted this historic wrong,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said, adding that the information could shed light on financial interests that “that could have influenced key presidential decisions.”

– Donovan Slack and David Jackson

Republicans: This is a new weapon

Democrats rushed to microphones and social media to defend their decision to release Trump’s taxes, saying the public is entitled to see financial information about the former president.

“This is bigger than one crooked man,” tweeted Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., D-N.J. “This is a triumph for idea that no one person is above the law.”

Republicans said everyone is entitled to privacy regarding their taxes, even former presidents.

Releasing Trump’s tax records is also “a terrible precedent that unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Tex., the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.

– David Jackson 

Committee member says 6 years of Trump returns to be released 

A Democratic member of the committee, Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett, told CNN after the vote that information set to be released includes Trump’s tax returns from 2015 to 2020.

“We’ve been at it for about the last three and a half hours discussing all aspects of this,” he said. “Now, there will be a report to the House prepared by Chairman Neal and his staff — very thorough report. It includes a number of attachments. It includes additional analysis from the Joint Tax Committee, and it will also include some Trump tax returns.”

 – Donovan Slack

Democrats latch on to GOP warning about SCOTUS on Trump tax release

Some Democrats late Tuesday seized on a Republican warning about releasing former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, saying, in so many words: Bring it.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the lead Republican on the House committee deciding whether to release them, said before the decision that doing so would set a precedent giving power to lawmakers going forward to “target and make public the tax returns of private citizens, political enemies, business and labor leaders or even the Supreme Court justices themselves.”

Democratic political group Occupy Democrats soon took to Twitter to say that releasing the tax returns of the “Republican-controlled Supreme Court” sounds “pretty darn good.”

– Donovan Slack

Brady warns Democrats about releasing Trump taxes

Just minutes before the meeting, Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, issued one final warning to Democrats about releasing Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Future lawmakers will have “nearly unlimited power” to “make public the tax returns of private citizens,” Brady told reporters, though most legal analysts said the law will continue to shield people who are not government officials..

The Twitter account of Ways and Means Republicans explained Brady’s motion for release of a transcript: “The American people know which lawmakers in Congress support the power to target political enemies & which side w/ longstanding taxpayer protections. That’s why @RepKevinBrady called for the transcript from the secret executive session be published along w/any Committee action.”

– David Jackson

Committee closed meeting to the public

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., chairman of the committee, had asked that the meeting be closed to the public as soon as it started, noting the confidential nature of the documents under review.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, asked first that a transcript of the private session be made public later if any taxpayer information is released as a result of the hearing. The committee unanimously agreed, and Neal said it would be made available “at the appropriate time.”

The committee went into private session less than five minutes after the meeting started.

– Donovan Slack

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., left, and Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the ranking member, as the panel meets to act on former President Donald Trump's tax returns on Dec. 20, 2022.

How can the House committee release Trump’s personal tax returns?

As a legal matter, attorneys cite federal law, which allows certain House and Senate committees to obtain the returns of any taxpayer, including the sitting president. The committee can then submit the information to the House or Senate for purposes of passing legislation.

In this case, committee members said they sought Trump’s records as part of an effort to write new laws regarding tax audits.

Watchdogs: Release Trump’s tax returns 

Public interest groups like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington are urging lawmakers to release Trump’s taxes, noting that Congress secured President Richard Nixon’s tax records in 1973, during the height of the Watergate scandal.

Tax returns should be made public “especially when you have a president in Trump who continued to operate an international business while president,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for CREW. “The American people need to know where his income was coming from.”

– David Jackson

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., center, and Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the ranking member, center right, and other committee members, meet to act on former President Donald Trump's tax returns on Dec. 20, 2022.

Whose tax-release precedent is it?

Committee Republicans are accusing Democrats of considering a frightful precedent that could be used against anybody.

“We urge Democrats, in their rush to target former President Trump, not to unleash this dangerous new political weapon on the American people,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the committee’s top Republican.

When Republicans led the committee in 2014, they considered releasing confidential tax information. And then voted to release it. At the time, they were investigating IRS delays on applications for tax-exempt status from conservative, Tea Party groups.

They voted to release documents that contained taxpayer information as part of a referral to the Justice Department recommending prosecution of an IRS official, Lois Lerner, for allegedly targeting conservative groups for increased scrutiny, causing the delays. Justice officials declined to prosecute, saying they found evidence of mismanagement at the IRS but not criminal wrongdoing.

– David Jackson and Donovan Slack

What’s in Donald Trump’s tax returns?

Charles Rettig, the California-based tax law expert Trump tapped as the nation’s IRS commissioner, offered predictions in a Forbes essay he wrote in 2016, two years before his nomination.

“Teams of sophisticated tax advisers were likely engaged throughout Trump’s career to assure the absence of any ‘bombshell’ within the returns. His returns might actually be somewhat unremarkable but for the fact they are the returns of Donald Trump,” wrote Rettig.

“For wealthy individuals, individual tax returns sometimes only provide a brief financial overview linked to numerous other conclusions and entities. To fully understand the financial status of Trump, one would likely need to see returns for multiple years, the work-papers for the individual returns and the returns for numerous related entities, something that is unlikely to happen.”

– Kevin McCoy

Could the Senate jump in?

The Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee have had little time to analyze Trump’s tax returns. Moreover, Republican control of the House starts in January, and GOP lawmakers have no plans to pursue the issue. But there’s a chance the Democrat-controlled Senate might,  Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute, said Tuesday.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairs the Senate Committee on Finance. And he’s been on record supporting the Ways and Means effort. In a July 2021 statement issued after the Department of Justice said the House committee should have access to the Trump tax returns, Wyden said he would “consult with the Ways and Means Committee and consider the (Senate) Finance Committee’s next steps.”

As the Finance Committee leader, “Sen. Wyden has all the same powers” to seek and review tax returns as part of Congress’ oversight role as Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chair of House Ways and Means panel, said Rosenthal. “He may want to wait and see what happens with Ways and Means first.”

– Kevin McCoy

Democrat blasts Trump ahead of tax-release meeting

Ahead of the meeting Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., lashed out at the former president’s “major tax avoidance.”

“It is pretty clear that Donald Trump and his organization have a major tax avoidance issue. To put it mildly,” he told CNN. “So I think there’s clearly a lot of smoke here and I’ll just leave it at that.”

Boyle is one of two dozen Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee, in addition to Neal. There are 17 Republicans. Ways and Means is the oldest congressional committee and the lead tax-writing panel in the House. 

– Donovan Slack and David Jackson

Case builds to send Trump taxes to Senate Democrats

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, the public interest watchdog group that earlier urged public release of his tax information, fired off a letter to the committee Tuesday asking members to send Trump’s tax materials to the Senate for further investigation.

Public disclosure of his tax information would “undoubtedly” be justified, CREW’s president and CEO Noah Bookbinder wrote. “However, we are not asking you to do that today.”

“Rather, we are simply asking you to send the information to the Senate Finance Committee,” which will still be controlled by Democrats next year, for further investigation. “Mr. Trump has spent decades avoiding transparency and accountability. For the sake of our democracy, his staggering record of financial impropriety must be fully investigated and understood so that it cannot recur.”

A representative for Neal, the House committee chair, did not respond to messages seeking comment ahead of the meeting.

– Donovan Slack

On Nov. 15, 2022, Donald Trump announces his third attempt to become president of the United States at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.

Maybe some small surprises?

Robert McKenzie, a tax law expert who’s of counsel to the Saul Ewing LLP law firm in Chicago, said tax returns sometimes contain surprising finds.

After former House Speaker Newt Gingrich released his returns in 2012, McKenzie and other lawyers told USA TODAY Gingrich used a popular tax strategy that enabled him to avoid paying Medicare tax on most of his 2010 income.

A spokesman for Gingrich, who was a presidential contender at the time, said the tax filing was handled properly and legally.

– Kevin McCoy

Trump prepares for tax revelations

Trump has repeatedly opposed any release of his tax information, calling the entire process political. In a recent Truth Social post, he claimed that the records will show his business has “lots of cash, some of the greatest assets anywhere in the World, and very little debt. Also, strong on deductions and depreciation.”

“You will be seeing these numbers soon, but not all from my tax returns, which show relatively little,” he said. 

Trump also claimed, “You can’t learn much from tax returns, but it is illegal to release them if they are not yours!”

– David Jackson

Former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15, 2022.

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