As Ways & Means Meets Today to Vote on Disclosure, It’s Clear Americans Have a Right to Know If Trump Is a Tax Dodger or Gained from Official Actions
After winning a nearly four-year battle to obtain access to Donald Trump’s tax returns, the House Ways and Means Committee should in its scheduled meeting today vote to release those returns to the public. The American people have a right to know if the former president and current presidential candidate obeys the tax laws, and whether he initiated public policies as president in pursuit of private gain, such as enactment of his signature legislative achievement the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017. Trump’s tax returns also might shed light on whether he was financially beholden to a foreign power and whether he was adequately taxed and audited, vital public questions in the rising movement for tax fairness.
Trump’s tax returns already obtained and released by the New York Times in 2020 revealed he paid zero federal income taxes in over half the years between 2000 and 2017. In two other years he paid $750. During all these years he was identified by Forbes magazine as a billionaire. The material in possession of the Ways and Means Committee includes at least one personal return—for 2018—not obtained by the Times.
Trump broke with 40 years of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns as candidate and president. When Democrats took control of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in early 2019, new chairman Richard Neal used a century-old provision of the tax code to request Trump’s returns. Trump and his Treasury Department resisted; the case went to litigation and was only resolved by the Supreme Court last month when it refused to block the returns’ release to the committee.
“There is precedent for the public release of returns obtained by Congressional tax committees under both Democratic and Republican control,” said Frank Clemente, ATF’s executive director. “Since Trump is running again for president, it’s especially important for voters to know whether he complies with tax law and to learn about his complex finances and how they interact with potential public duties.
“Tax fairness starts at the top: if the president is not paying his fair share or is otherwise abusing the tax laws, the American people have the right to know. Chairman Neal and the Ways and Means Democrats are to be congratulated for their dogged pursuit of this important information. Now they must share the fruit of their labors with the American people, the final arbiters of what is acceptable behavior by our elected leaders.”
Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) has been pushing for the committee to obtain and release Trump’s returns for the past four years, beginning with a detailed report released in December 2018. That report was the basis for a USA Today op-ed published soon after.