In a statement issued after the publication of six years-worth of Donald Trump's tax returns, House Committee on Ways and Means member Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) said that returns were obtained using the committee's "clear legal authority."
Lawmakers released Trump's tax returns on Friday, ending a yearslong battle by the former president to keep his finances private as he prepares for another run at the White House in 2024.
The Republican leader -- who lost his re-election bid as he served a single term from 2017-2021 -- broke with tradition by refusing to release the records, triggering feverish speculation about what they might contain.
"Chairman [Richard Neal (D-MA)] requested this tax information to inform our committee’s work on IRS tax enforcement, including the presidential audit program. The findings, already detailed in the committee’s report, show that this program was broken – justifying our legislative purpose, and leading to House passage of legislation to fix the problem on December 22nd," Beyer said.
“Despite promising to release his tax returns, Donald Trump refused to do so, and abused the power of his office to block basic transparency on his finances and conflicts of interest which no president since Nixon has foregone," he statement continued. "Trump acted as though he had something to hide, a pattern consistent with the recent conviction of his family business for criminal tax fraud. As the public will now be able to see, Trump used questionable or poorly substantiated deductions and a number of other tax avoidance schemes as justification to pay little or no federal income tax in several of the years examined."
According to Breyer, the findings "underscore the fact that our tax laws are often inequitable, and that enforcement of them is often unjust."
"Trump was able to bypass even the mandatory IRS presidential audit program for years, but many other wealthy and powerful people evade billions in tax dues every year through more quotidian tax avoidance. Congress has so much work to do to make tax enforcement in this country fairer, and that will continue to be a major priority for me as a member of the Ways and Means Committee going forward.”
The House Ways and Means Committee voted on December 20 to release all of Trump's 2015-2020 returns, ending a four-year battle between Democrats and the former president that eventually reached the Supreme Court.
The summary showed that the 76-year-old billionaire mostly claimed enormous annual deficits.
He paid $1.1 million in federal taxes in 2018 and 2019, the middle two years of his presidency, after making around $30 million selling assets.
But that dwarfed his $750 bill in 2017 -- and he paid nothing at all as his losses mounted in 2020.
The report also showed that Trump had carried forward $105 million in net operating losses on his 2015 return, $73 million in 2016, $45 million in 2017 and $23 million in 2018 to reduce his tax liability.
The New York Times alleged in 2020 that Trump had paid no income tax in 10 of the previous 15 years after reporting massive losses.
A separate congressional report on the IRS's mandatory presidential audit program showed it was not doing its job during most of Trump's time in office.
"The IRS only opened one mandatory examination from 2017 to 2020 for returns filed while the former president was in office," the report reads.
The IRS began to audit Trump on the very day that Ways and Means Democrats requested his tax information in 2019.
With additional reporting by AFP