Tax returns reveal that Trump held foreign bank accounts in the UK, Ireland and China while in office
Donald Trump (AFP)

Six years of former President Donald Trump's federal tax returns were finally released on Friday. They include thousands of pages of dense financial data, showing that Trump and his wife Melania paid very little in federal income taxes in the first and last year of his presidency — and suggesting that contrary to his previous claims, Trump accepted his salary as president at least for his final year in office.

The House Ways and Means Committee released the redacted versions of Trump's returns for the tax years 2015 through 2020. The report comes days before Republicans are set to take control of the House, and ends Trump's extended efforts to conceal his tax returns from the public.

Trump's tax information will now be available for journalists, independent tax specialists and ordinary citizens to read, study and pick apart in the leadup to the 2024 presidential election.

The Ways and Means Committee also confirmed a report from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) stating that Trump claimed significant business losses both before and during his presidency that he carried forward in order to reduce his tax burden. His returns show that he carried forward a $105 million loss in 2015 and $73 million in 2016.

The JCT found that the former president paid no taxes in 2020. The variability of Trump's tax history is also noteworthy: He paid a combined $1.1 million in federal income taxes in 2018 and 2019 but just $750 in 2017.

The file released by Ways and Means contains numerous documents from Trump's personal and business tax returns. One area that observers have flagged as potentially dubious is the interest Trump claimed he received on loans to his children, a possible indication that he was trying to hide gifts, according to the JCT.

In its report, the committee questioned whether "the loans were bona fide arm's length transactions, or whether the transfers were disguised gifts that could trigger gift tax and a disallowance of interest deductions by the related borrowers."

BREAKING:
The House Ways and Means Committee has officially released six Trump's tax returns.
Read here: https://t.co/NVegOYNGuZ
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 30, 2022

The returns also show that Trump held foreign bank accounts in the U.K., Ireland and China while in office.

The Chinese bank account was tied to Trump International Hotels Management's business plans in the country and was reported by the New York Times in 2020. That disclosure came during the election campaign, when Trump accused Joe Biden of being a "puppet" of China. Biden's tax returns and other financial disclosures showed no deals or income from China.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

The Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for writing tax policy and overseeing the IRS, found that the federal tax agency had failed to conduct mandatory audits on Trump, according to reporting from CNN.

The IRS opened only one of the required audits while Trump was presidency, for the 2016 tax year (which preceded his term of office). That audit did not even begin until the fall of 2019 — the committee's report characterized the presidential audit program as "dormant."

The JCT report also sheds light on some of the large charitable deductions that Trump claimed on his tax returns, which can reduce the amount of income tax owed. The returns do not show the full extent of Trump's financial dealings, nor do they reveal his net worth.

Following the release of his returns to the public, Trump shared a videotaped statement on Friday with a request for campaign donations.

"Although these tax returns contain relatively little information and not information that almost anybody would understand — they're extremely complex — the radical Democrats' behavior is a shame upon the U.S. Congress," he said.

The Ways and Means Committee's top Republican, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, sounded an alarm after Trump's returns were released, warning that the report will give future committee chairmen "nearly unlimited" power to make public the tax returns of "private citizens, political enemies, business and labor leaders or even the Supreme Court justices themselves."

"In the long run, Democrats will come to regret it," Brady said in a statement.

Trump was the first presidential candidate in decades to withhold his tax returns, and sued the committee in an attempt to keep them private.

New: House Ways and Means chair Richard Neal on release of Trump tax returns: "We are only here today because four years ago, our request to learn more about the program under 6103 was denied. This was the first time that this key oversight function was hampered."
— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) December 30, 2022

After gaining access to Trump's returns, the Democratic-controlled House passed a bill before the winter recess that would require the IRS to audit a president's tax filings within 90 days of their inauguration. Democratic leaders were on a tight timeline, since Republicans will take majority control when the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3.

The House Ways and Means report can be viewed here.