Trump, who broke a decades-old tradition of presidential candidates and presidents by refusing to release his tax returns for years falsely claimed that he could not release them while under “routine audit” by the Internal Revenue Service.
The New York Times in 2020 reported that Trump paid $750 in federal income tax in 2016, when he won the presidency, and another $750 in 2017. The Times, which obtained more than two decades of tax records, also reported that he paid no tax on income in 10 of the 15 years before he ran for president.
At the time, a Trump spokesman disputed the accuracy of the Times report and said Trump had paid tens of millions of dollars in “personal taxes” to the federal government, a vague phrase that leaves unclear what taxes were paid. Records obtained by the Times show that Trump has cut his taxes by aggressively using losses to offset income, among other methods.
The revelations followed reports by The Washington Post and other organizations that showed Trump paid little or no federal income taxes in the earlier years of his career. The message writes in his biography, “Trump revealed,” that Trump paid no income taxes in 1978 and 1979, using tax deductions such as real estate depreciation, allowing him to claim a negative income of $3.8 million.
When 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton noted in a debate that Trump had paid no federal income taxes for those two years, Trump responded, “That makes me smart.” Then, when Clinton speculated that Trump might not have paid “any federal income tax for many years” — which turned out to be the case — Trump said the government “wasted” the money.
During his presidential campaign, in which he often bragged about being an extremely wealthy and successful tycoon, Trump said he would release his “beautiful” tax returns to back up his claims. But he said he would not make them public while it was under review.
The legal battle between Trump and the Ways and Means Committee played out in the courts for years, continuing even after Trump left office. But last month, The Supreme Court cleared the way the House committee to review Trump’s tax returns, without giving a reason for denying Trump’s request to withhold the documents.
“We knew the strength of our case, we stayed the course, followed counsel’s advice, and ultimately our case was upheld by the highest court in the land,” Neal said in statement then. “Since the Magna Carta, the principle of supervision has been upheld, and it is no different today. This rises above politics and the commission will now carry out the oversight we have sought for the past three and a half years.
Trump and his Republican allies criticized efforts to obtain his tax returns as a partisan attack and warned that Congress making the former president’s returns public after he left office would violate the separation of powers.
Yet federal judges have sequentially managed that the legislatures established the “valid legislative purpose” necessary for disclosure. Then came the Supreme Court decision late last month Trump has announced that he will run for president again in 2024.
Arguing against the release of the tax records, Trump’s legal team said the committee’s premise for seeking information “has nothing to do with funding or staffing issues at the IRS and everything to do with releasing the president’s tax information to the public.”
Their filing added: “If allowed to remain, it would undermine the separation of powers and make the office of the presidency vulnerable to invasive requests for information from political opponents in the legislature.”
Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee, who support the release of Trump’s tax returns, have limited time to do so, with Republicans poised to take control of the House and committee in January.
Robert Barnes contributed to this report.
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