House Committee Will Vote on Making Trump’s Taxes Public

A House committee is expected to vote Tuesday afternoon on whether to make public tax returns belonging to former President Donald J. Trump, who broke with modern precedent by keeping his finances confidential during his campaign and while in office.

The closed-door vote by the Ways and Means Committee is likely to bring an end to a longstanding battle that Democrats in the House have been waging since 2019, when they took over the chamber and began trying to perform oversight of Mr. Trump. Republicans, who are expected to oppose any bid to make Mr. Trump’s returns public, will regain control of the chamber next month.

A rarely used federal law allows the committee to obtain any U.S. taxpayer’s returns. While the statute generally requires lawmakers to keep such information confidential, it also empowers them to make it public by voting to report the material to the full House.

Democrats have said they needed Mr. Trump’s records from 2015 to 2020 to assess an I.R.S. program that audits presidents. Republicans in turn have insisted that rationale was a pretext for a politically motivated fishing expedition they say lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.

The Trump administration’s refusal to comply with the panel’s request spurred a legal battle that played out over nearly four years. A Federal District Court judge and a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the committee, which obtained six years of Mr. Trump’s returns last month after the Supreme Court declined to block their release.

Because public disclosure of confidential tax data is illegal until the committee votes to make it public, a portion of the Ways and Means Committee’s meeting, which begins at 3 p.m., will take place behind closed doors. Lawmakers will be free to discuss the matter afterward.

In announcing the meeting last week, Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts, who as the committee’s chairman requested Mr. Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department, offered scant detail outside portraying it as a long-fought victory.

“Nearly four years ago, the Ways and Means Committee set out to fulfill our legislative and oversight responsibilities and evaluate the Internal Revenue Service’s mandatory audit program,” he said. “As affirmed by the Supreme Court, the law was on our side, and on Tuesday, I will update the members of the committee.”

Republicans have argued that Democrats are establishing a precedent that the tax disclosure law can be used for political purposes. The ranking Republican on the committee, Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, said in a statement that by releasing private tax returns, Democrats were “unleashing a dangerous new weapon” that could “target political enemies” by disclosing information that might “embarrass and destroy them.”

Congress has used the law to release private taxpayer information before.

In 1974, a committee relied on that provision to issue a bipartisan staff report of President Richard M. Nixon’s tax returns.

And after a party-line vote in 2014, Republicans used it to release information about groups applying for tax-exempt status. (At the time, Republicans accused the I.R.S. of singling out conservative groups for scrutiny in determining their eligibility for tax-deductible charitable donations. It turned out the I.R.S. had used words associated with conservative and liberal politics alike in picking which groups to examine.)

It is not clear whether the release of the records would reveal major findings. Prosecutors in New York had already obtained access to some Trump-related tax data, and his family business has been the subject of multiple investigations. The Trump Organization was convicted of a tax fraud scheme this month. The New York attorney general has sued Mr. Trump and three of his children, accusing them of lying to lenders and insurers by fraudulently overvaluing his assets.

The New York Times has also investigated Mr. Trump’s taxes, including obtaining tax-return data in 2020 that covered more than two decades. He paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that The Times examined; he also reduced his tax bill with questionable measures, including a $72.9 million tax refund that, as of 2020, was the subject of an I.R.S. audit.

Still, the returns the committee has obtained contain more recent data.

Source link

Categories USA