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US House Committee Votes to Make Trump’s Tax Returns Public

A US House committee has voted to release years of tax returns obtained from former President Donald Trump, capping off a years-long legal and political battle that began while he was in the White House.

The Committee on Ways and Means, a body responsible for overseeing tax-related issues, voted 24-16 in a closed-door session Tuesday, in what was seen as the last chance for the Democratic-led panel to address the theme.

A summary of Trump’s tax returns between 2015 and 2021, when he ran for president and served in the White House, will be partially redacted and released in a few days, said committee chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

The House of Representatives will switch to Republican control in January, following the November midterm elections. Republicans have denounced Tuesday’s vote as partisan.

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“We are concerned that this will set off a cycle of political retaliation in Congress,” Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the committee, said before the vote.

It will also lead to increased scrutiny of Trump, who recently announced his intentions to run for another term as president in 2024.

At stake were six years of the former president’s tax returns and part of his business, part of a three-year political fight over the documents.

The committee had initially requested the tax returns in 2019, as part of an investigation into then-President Trump’s tax compliance and audit program run by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Title 26 of the US Code states that the US Treasury Department “shall provide” to the committee “any refund or refund information” it requests.

But the Treasury Department at the time refused to release Trump’s tax records. And Trump had previously claimed that he could not release the documents, as he was under an IRS audit.

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However, the committee found that the IRS did not follow its own rules when it failed to audit Trump’s tax returns during three of his four years in office.

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While their report indicated that the Trump administration may have ignored an IRS requirement dating back to 1977 that calls for audits of a president’s tax returns, the IRS only began auditing Trump’s 2016 tax returns on 3 April 2019, more than two years into his presidency. and just a few months after the Democrats took control of the House.

There was no suggestion that Trump was seeking to directly influence the IRS or discourage the agency from reviewing his tax information. But the report found that the audit process was “sluggish, at best.”

Trump’s decision not to release his tax records marked a significant break in the bipartisan tradition, which dates back to the 1970s, when leading presidential candidates like Jimmy Carter began releasing their tax returns.

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In 2020, Trump lost his bid for a second consecutive term as president, and the incoming administration of Democrat Joe Biden signaled its support for the Ways and Means Committee’s ability to review any taxpayer’s tax returns, including the president’s.

To prevent that from happening, Trump took his fight to court, arguing that he was targeted for political reasons. But lower courts sided with the committee, saying it had broad authority to obtain tax documents.

Trump’s legal team responded with an emergency motion to stop the publication. On November 1, Chief Justice John Roberts announced that the US Supreme Court would temporarily pause delivery of the documents while the court considered the arguments surrounding the case.

On November 22, the Supreme Court lifted the freeze without noting any disagreement, allowing the committee access to tax records.

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Neal, the committee chairman, applauded the decision, calling it a victory for government oversight.

“We knew the strength of our case, we stayed the course, we followed the advice of a lawyer, and finally our case has been confirmed by the highest court in the land,” Neal said in a statement. “This rises above politics, and the Committee will now carry out the oversight that we have sought for the last three and a half years.”

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The committee’s investigation is one of several related to Trump’s business dealings. New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit in September 2022 against Trump and the Trump Organization, alleging financial fraud.

In 2021, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance obtained eight years of Trump’s tax returns as part of a criminal investigation into the former president and his namesake organization.

Vance’s team had issued a subpoena for the records 18 months earlier, but Trump’s legal team tried to use presidential immunity to block the investigation, which looked into alleged falsification of business records and tax fraud, among other alleged crimes.

On December 6 of this year, Vance’s successor, Alvin Bragg, obtained a guilty verdict against the Trump Organization for running a 15-year criminal scheme to defraud tax authorities. Trump himself was not charged in the case.

Neither that case, nor the Vance investigation, resulted in the release of Trump’s tax records. But the New York Times newspaper obtained decades of personal and corporate tax records from the former president.

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It published its findings in a Pulitzer Prize-winning report in 2018, followed by a second report in 2020. The paper did not publish the documents themselves to protect its anonymous sources, “who have taken enormous personal risks to help inform the public. ”.

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The 2020 report revealed that Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, and paid no income tax in 10 of the last 15 years, after claiming millions of dollars in losses.

Trump denied the Times’ findings, saying, “It’s fake news, it’s totally fake news. Fixed up. False.”

Neal described the Times reports as reflective of inequality in American society and called on his committee to continue searching for Trump’s tax records.

“This report sheds a clear light on the very different experience people with power and influence have when interacting with the IRS than the average American taxpayer,” Neal said in a statement at the time.

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“It appears the president has played the tax code to his advantage and used legal fights to delay or avoid paying what he owes.”

Trump remains the subject of a separate Justice Department investigation into his handling of classified documents.

The House committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 also recommended criminal charges Monday against the former president, although its recommendations are not legally binding.

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