Trump tax returns released after fierce battle, shedding light on finances from 2015 to 2020

Trump tax returns released after fierce battle, shedding light on finances from 2015 to 2020

The returns give more detail into how the former president benefited from his 2017 tax cut law

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A House panel released six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns, the culmination of a years-long battle between Democrats and the former president who exhausted all legal options to keep his financial records private.

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The returns, which include his personal and business filings from 2015 to 2020, are the first complete look into Trump’s tax records for the years he was running for office and in the White House. The release comes just days before Democrats relinquish their House majority, which will end much of their ability to investigate him.

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The documents shed light on the sources of the president’s earnings and the taxes he paid, including one year where he paid nothing in federal income tax. The records also show large deductions that Congress’s non-partisan tax experts have said warrant more scrutiny.

Tax returns are intended to report income — not total wealth — so the documents don’t reveal Trump’s net worth. Even business returns only report the purchase price for an asset, such as a building, not the valuation.

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The Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee released the returns as part of their investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s presidential audit program, which found that the agency had failed to examine Trump’s tax returns while in office, as has been done with previous presidents. A report last week summarized Trump’s tax filings and also flagged dozens of potential audit triggers that the IRS didn’t pursue.

Trump and his businesses lost tens of millions of dollars from 2015 to 2020 and he was able to use those losses, along with claiming large tax breaks, to minimize his tax bill. That’s legal as long as he didn’t under-report earnings or inflate the size of the deductions, which can only be determined from a comprehensive audit.

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The returns also give more detail into how Trump benefited from his 2017 tax cut law, which included levy breaks and expanded write-offs for some top earners.

The House passed legislation last week that would mandate that the IRS conduct an annual audit of the president and then release the tax returns and examination results publicly. But the Senate did not act on it before adjourning for the year.

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Such a bill would serve as a backstop for future presidential candidates who buck the decades-long tradition of making tax records public during the campaign. 

It’s unclear whether it could become law next year. Senate Democrats have pledged to take up the bill, but House Republicans, who will soon have a majority in the chamber, have criticized the proposal.


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