EXPLAINER: What’s the debate over releasing Trump’s taxes?

Dec 21, 2022, 9:40 PM | Updated: Dec 22, 2022, 11:53 am
FILE - Documents arrive as the House Ways & Means Committee holds a hearing regarding tax returns f...

FILE - Documents arrive as the House Ways & Means Committee holds a hearing regarding tax returns from former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

              FILE - Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 15, 2022. The Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday voted to release former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, raising the potential of additional revelations in the coming days related to the finances of the longtime businessman who broke political norms by refusing to voluntarily make public his returns as he sought the presidency. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
            
              FILE - House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., top center, and Committee Republican Leader Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, top right, take their seats with other members, before the House Ways & Means Committee holds a hearing regarding tax returns from former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
            
              FILE - Documents arrive as the House Ways & Means Committee holds a hearing regarding tax returns from former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday voted to release former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, raising the potential of additional revelations in the coming days related to the finances of the longtime businessman who broke political norms by refusing to voluntarily make public his returns as he sought the presidency.

Reports released by the committee, as well as Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, give a glimpse into Trump’s financial position before and during his presidency. Access to the tax records culminates of a yearslong legal fight that has played out everywhere from the campaign trail to the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court.

A look at the issues that have arisen from the controversy surrounding Trump’s taxes:

WHY ARE THESE ISSUES COMING UP?

Since Richard Nixon — following media reports suggesting the then-president had taken questionable, large deductions on his individual tax returns — U.S. presidents and all major party nominees have voluntarily made at least summaries of their tax information available to the public.

Trump bucked that trend as a candidate, and then as president, repeatedly asserting that his taxes were “under audit” and therefore could not be released.

According to the reports released this week, an audit of Trump’s 2016 taxes was not begun until April 3, 2019, more than two years into Trump’s presidency. That date coincides with when Democratic Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, asked the IRS for information related to Trump’s tax returns.

The New York Times found that before Trump entered the White House, he was facing an IRS audit potentially tied to a $72.9 million tax refund arising from $700 million in losses he claimed in 2009. Documents released Tuesday indicate that Trump continued to collect tax benefits from those losses through 2018.

___

DON’T PRESIDENTS REGULARLY GET AUDITED ANYWAY?

They are supposed to. The IRS has an internal policy that mandates audits of presidents and vice presidents. Representatives for President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama confirmed that each was audited for every year in office.

But in their report, committee Democrats said the audit process, which dates to 1977, was “dormant, at best” during the early years of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the committee voted to issue its report and make the materials public, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that Democrats would immediately introduce legislation to codify the IRS presidential audit policy into law. On Thursday, the House passed that measure, though it has little chance of becoming law in the final days of this Congress. Still, it is seen as a starting point for future efforts to bolster oversight of the presidency.

Some Republicans opposed to making Trump’s tax information publicly available argued that doing so would set a dangerous precedent and could open up anyone’s records if someone drew the ire of politicians in power. The GOP is poised to take over control of the House and its committees next month.

___

WHY ARE TRUMP’S TAXES DIFFERENT?

Trump is the first president in recent history to refuse to share tax information with the public. His finances are more complex than those of other presidents. Trump’s network has included hundreds of businesses, pass-through entities — the income of which is reported on individual, not corporate, returns — foreign and domestic properties, contracts and complex business interests.

According to information released this week, the IRS initially assigned just one staff member to Trump’s audit, which also highlight the immense funding challenges that the agency faces.

The House committee examined six years of Trump’s personal returns, as well as those of eight of his businesses. The committee raised red flags about Trump’s carryover losses — which could be used to avoid paying taxes — deductions tied to conservation and charitable donations, and loans to his children that could be taxable gifts.

The committee also found repeated faults with the approach by the IRS toward auditing Trump and his companies.

IRS agents in charge of the audits repeatedly failed to bring in specialists with expertise assessing the complicated structure of Trump’s holdings. They frequently determined that a limited examination was warranted because Trump hired a professional accounting firm that they assumed would make sure Trump “properly reports all income and deduction items correctly.”

___

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Committee members and staff have said that it would take at least several days to make necessary redactions of sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers and contact information, before the returns are released to the public. Before Tuesday’s hearing, staff members wheeled several boxes of documents into the hearing room on trolleys, indicating the volume of materials under review.

On the legislative side, there is the House-approved measure that would codify the mandatory presidential audit policy into law with more stringent requirements, including “disclosure of certain audit information and related returns in a timely manner.”

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he will work to pass the bill.

___

Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A man steers his boat that is used by residents to move around the street flooded with rain water i...
Associated Press

Tropical storm leaves 30 dead, 20 missing in Madagascar

ANTANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — Flooding and landslides caused by the passage of tropical storm Cheneso across Madagascar caused 30 deaths, left 20 people missing and affected tens of thousands across the Indian Ocean island nation, according to a provisional assessment Monday. The storm made landfall in the northeast of the island last Thursday and impacted […]
1 day ago
FILE - Trevor Noah appears at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on March 14, 2021. Noah ...
Associated Press

Trevor Noah returns as Grammy host with comfort, nervousness

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Trevor Noah feels more comfortable hosting the Grammy Awards for a third-straight year, but the former “The Daily Show” host still has some nervousness about leading the ceremony with big-time acts like Beyoncé, Adele and Harry Styles looking on. “The nerves come in because you’re standing in front of not just […]
1 day ago
(AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)...
Associated Press

2 Cuban sisters’ 4,200-mile journey to the US and a new life

HAVANA (AP) — The Rolo González sisters walked out of Nicaragua’s main airport and peered out onto a sea of young men. The Central American “coyotes” squinted back, trying to find the people they would smuggle to the United States. These were the first steps that 19-year-old Merlyn and 24-year-old Melanie took outside of Cuba. […]
1 day ago
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard, right, in th...
Associated Press

UK’s Sunak defends handling of ethics breaches in government

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended his record on integrity and decisiveness Monday, amid criticism of the way he has handled ethics scandals involving senior Conservatives. Sunak said he acted “pretty decisively” to fire party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday after the government’s standards adviser found that he’d breached ministerial conduct rules […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

New US ambassador to Moscow meets with Russian deputy FM

MOSCOW (AP) — New U.S. ambassador to Moscow Lynne Tracy on Monday met with a Russian deputy foreign minister, officials said. Tracy arrived in Moscow last week, taking up her post amid high tensions over Russia’s military actions in Ukraine and U.S. support for Ukraine including President Joe Biden’s recent decision to provide advanced battle […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Japan ex-soldier sues gov’t, colleagues over sexual abuse

TOKYO (AP) — A former Japanese soldier who reported being sexually abused by military colleagues said Monday she has filed a damage suit against five perpetrators and the government because she feels their earlier apologies were empty. Rina Gonoi went public with her experience last year, demanding the Defense Ministry reinvestigate her case, in which […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
EXPLAINER: What’s the debate over releasing Trump’s taxes?