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After years of fighting for them, Democrats could release Trump's tax return information

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Democrats on the House Tax Drafting Committee could vote on Tuesday to release the information on Donald Trump’s tax returns after winning a lengthy legal battle against the former president during the final weeks of Democratic control of the lower house. .

The Ways and Means Committee announced a Tuesday afternoon meeting on ‘protected documents under Section 6103 of the tax code,’ the rule under the Democratic regime that was able to obtain Trump’s tax records from the Treasury. for the years 2015 to 2020.

A vote at this meeting to release a report to the expanded Congress involving Trump’s tax information could open a new chapter in the saga of Trump’s tax returns, which have been a source of great frustration for Democrats during Trump’s presidency. after breaking with decades of presidential precedent. by not sharing them when taking office. It might also help close the book on the matter once and for all.

Congressional experts say the content of such a report to Congress could vary.

“Does this report contain all the information the Ways and Means Committee has obtained?” Does it contain some of the information, perhaps in summary form? Steve Rosenthal, an analyst at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said in an interview. Or maybe [it just has] a finding that the Ways and Means Committee has reviewed these tax returns and that there is nothing to worry about. It could be a very short report including summary documents.

But a veritable canon of investigative reporting on Trump’s personal finances for years has set high expectations for a big reveal.

In 2020, The New York Times reported that Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and that he had paid “no income tax at all in 10 of 15 years. previous years, largely because he said he lost far more money than he made.” .” .”

In 2016, the newspaper reported that Trump suffered a loss of $916 million on his 1995 tax return, nominally for him to avoid income tax for granting nearly 20 years.

To generate the $916 million in losses, Trump used other people’s money without ever repaying his loans or reversing his tax deductions, as required by law. And the IRS apparently never objected,” Rosenthal wrote online Monday.

There are doubts whether the documents provided to House Democrats go back far enough to paint a full picture of Trump’s financial history and corroborate so many explosive reports.

“It could be a case of too little too late,” Rosenthal said. “I expect very little, without a fuller investigation.”

Political strategists say Democrats should seize the opportunity to focus on transparency issues surrounding Trump’s business dealings, especially after one of Trump’s key companies was convicted of tax evasion earlier in December and that the high-profile Jan. 6 The committee is considering its own series of criminal referrals against the former president.

“This isn’t old news. Donald Trump is running for president again in 2024 in the Republican primary. So this is news you can use, not old news to lose,” said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright in an interview.

This should spark conversations and will spark conversations and should give some people some real reason to think especially based on what’s in it [the report]he added.

Republicans said over the weekend that Trump’s tax returns would set a new damaging precedent.

“The Ways and Means Democrats are unleashing a dangerous new political weapon that goes far beyond President Trump and puts the privacy of every American at risk,” Republican Ways and Means Leader Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said on Saturday. ) in a press release.

Going forward, congressional supporters have almost unlimited power to target political enemies by obtaining and publicizing their private tax returns to embarrass and destroy them. This is not limited to civil servants, but can target private citizens, business and union leaders and Supreme Court justices,” he said.

But after the midterm elections, which saw many of Trump’s chosen candidates lose and his influence within the Republican Party challenged, the disclosure of the former president’s tax returns may not pose the huge threat. for Republicans she has done in recent years.

If anything, Republicans’ vocal disapproval could set the stage for their own round of investigations that could culminate in their own favorite tax disclosures once they take control of the House in January.

“If you back down, maybe Trump won’t even run for office again. So why would Republicans care? said Steve Rosenthal. Ways and Means Republicans might come out and say, “You started it. It is bilateralism. And so they’re going to ask for the tax filing information on Hunter Biden and Joe Biden and anybody they want to embarrass.

Accusations of political retaliation through the US tax administration are not new.

Recently, expert audits of two former top FBI officials who became political enemies of Trump during the investigation into his Russian ties set off alarm bells for Democrats before the Treasury Inspector General does not authorize the tax authorities to commit reprehensible acts.

Similarly, Republicans have accused the IRS of targeting the tax-exempt status of conservative political groups under the Obama administration.

Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee could also decide not to release anything substantial in their potential report to Congress.

In this case, the Senate Finance Committee, which will remain under Democratic control in January, could resume the investigation.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) expressed interest in pursuing the investigation after the Justice Department sided with the Ways and Means Committee in 2021, arguing that the committee had the right to see Trump’s tax returns.

“The Department of Justice confirms that Secretary Mnuchin acted outside the law by refusing to respond to a congressional request regarding Donald Trump’s tax returns,” Wyden said in a 2021 statement, referring to the secretary. to Trump’s Treasury, Steve Mnuchin. “In light of this decision, I will consult with the Ways and Means Committee and consider the next steps of the Finance Committee.”

Ways and Means Democrats have been seeking Trump’s tax returns since he won the House in 2018, saying they need them from the IRS to conduct oversight of the federal presidential audit program.

“The IRS has a policy of auditing the tax returns of all sitting presidents and vice presidents,” the rep said. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in 2019. “We need to get President Trump’s tax returns and check to see if the IRS is fulfilling its responsibilities.”

Regardless of the extent of the disclosures on Trump’s personal tax returns, experts say his case is indicative of a broader set of problems with the US tax system and how its complexity allows it to be operated in bad faith.

“To keep our voluntary tax system stable, we rely on taxpayers not to play ‘hide the ball’ or, as Trump claims, to treat taxes like a sport. Trump once said that was how he saw it,” Steve Rosenthal said. “The system will collapse if taxpayers play it and succeed.”