New Delhi: A congressional committee on Tuesday voted to publicly release Former United States President Donald Trump’s tax returns as reported by The Guardian. This move can ignite a political row as well as anger among some privacy experts in America. The House ways and means committee decided to release the documents, which Trump has long tried to hide, after several hours of debate.
The extensive chunks of Trump’s tax returns previously released by The New York Times showed how the real estate mogul and reality TV star had suffered severe losses and engaged in comprehensive tax avoidance. The decision by the panel comes after a long battle that ultimately resulted in the supreme court clearing the way last month for the treasury department to send the returns to Congress. The committee received six years of tax returns for Trump and some of his businesses.
As a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump refused to release his tax forms to the public. During a presidential debate that year, he bragged that he was “smart” because he paid no federal taxes and later claimed he wouldn’t benefit from the 2017 tax cuts he signed into law that favored people with extreme wealth, asking Americans to simply take him at his word.
Tax records would have been a useful metric for judging his business success. They also could reveal any financial obligations – including foreign debts – that could influence how he governed. The Americans were largely in the dark about Trump’s relationship with the IRS until October 2018 and September 2020, when The New York Times published two separate series based on leaked tax records.
The 2018 articles showed how Trump received a modern equivalent of at least $413m from his father’s real estate holdings, with much of that money coming from what the Times called “tax dodges” in the 1990s.
Trump sued the Times and his niece, Mary Trump, in 2021 for providing the records to the newspaper. Mary Trump asked an appeals court In November to overturn a judge’s decision to reject her claims that her uncle and two of his siblings defrauded her of millions of dollars in a 2001 family settlement.
The 2020 articles showed that Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018. Trump paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the past 15 years because he generally lost more money than he made. Details about Trump’s income from foreign operations and debt levels were also contained in the tax filings, which the former president derided as “fake news”, as reported by The Guardian.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office also obtained copies of Trump’s tax records in February 2021 after a protracted legal fight that included two trips to the supreme court. The office, then led by District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr, had subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm in 2019, seeking access to eight years of Trump’s tax returns and related documents.
The Guardian reported that the DA’s office issued the subpoena after Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress that Trump had misled tax officials, insurers, and business associates about the value of his assets. Those allegations are the subject of a fraud lawsuit that New York attorney general Letitia James filed against Trump and his company in September.
Trump’s longtime accountant, Donald Bender, testified at the Trump Organization’s recent criminal trial that Trump reported losses on his tax returns every year for a decade, including nearly $700m in 2009 and $200m in 2010.
The Trump Organization was convicted earlier this month on tax fraud charges for helping some executives dodge taxes on company-paid perks such as apartments and luxury cars. Republicans, meanwhile, have railed against the potential release, arguing that it would set a dangerous precedent.
(With Inputs from AP)