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Updates on Trump’s tax returns: IRS hasn’t audited him in 2 years, Democrats say

Updates on Trump’s tax returns: IRS hasn’t audited him in 2 years, Democrats say

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WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service failed to audit the tax returns of former President Donald J. Trump for his first two years in office despite having a program that makes audits of sitting presidents mandatory, a House committee revealed Tuesday after an emergency vote to release six years of his tax returns.

The agency began auditing Mr. Trump’s tax returns as president only after Democrats took over the House and the Ways and Means Committee requested access to Mr. Trump’s taxes and all related audits in 2019, lawmakers on the panel said. The IRS has not yet completed that audit, they said.

The revelation transformed the political context surrounding the committee’s nearly four-year fight to obtain information about Mr. Trump’s taxes and any related audits. Its chairman, Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, said the group needed the data to evaluate the president’s IRS audit program, but Mr. Trump’s lawyers and Republicans called it a pretext for a politically motivated fishing expedition.

That the audit program apparently failed was an early revelation in what could be a series of revelations from the expected release of Mr Trump’s declarations. Democrats said it could be several days before thousands of pages of tax returns from Mr. Trump and several related businesses from 2015 to 2020 become public because they redacted sensitive data such as addresses and bank account numbers .

The party-line vote to release the materials came amid waning Democratic control of the House following Republican gains in the midterm elections. The committee invoked a century-old statute that allows it to legally release otherwise confidential tax information related to Mr. Trump, who bucked tradition by refusing to release his financial information as a presidential candidate and sitting president.

The vote followed a closed-door debate that lasted more than four hours. It ended a House legal and political battle to release Mr. Trump’s hidden tax returns. Last month, just weeks before Republicans took over the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court refused to block the transfer of the files from the IRS.

After the vote, Mr. Neal, who as committee chairman requested Mr. Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department, praised the committee’s handling of the documents.

“It wasn’t about punishments,” he said. It wasn’t about malice. And there were no leaks from the committee. We carefully adhered to the law.”

But Republicans on the committee described it as unjustified and setting a dangerous precedent, undermining a rule against disclosure of personal taxpayer information that risked paving the way for future Congresses to routinely reveal the private finances of political opponents.

After the meeting, Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the panel, told reporters: “So, unfortunately, the case is done. What became clear today is that the public release of President Trump’s personal tax returns has nothing to do with the stated purpose of reviewing the IRS’s presidential audit process.

Mr. Neill first requested access to Mr. Trump’s tax returns in 2019 after Democrats won control of the House in last year’s midterm elections and began trying to exercise oversight of Mr. Trump. But the Trump administration would not allow the Treasury Department to comply with the request.

The panel eventually sued to enforce its demand, sparking a legal battle that lasted nearly four years. A federal district court judge and a federal appeals court both ruled in favor of the committee last month after The Supreme Court refused to block their release.

Congress has used the Act to release personal information about taxpayers before.

In 1974, a committee invoked this provision to issue a bipartisan staff report on President Richard M. Nixon’s tax returns.

And after a party vote in 2014, Republicans used it to release information about groups applying for tax-exempt status. (At the time, Republicans accused the IRS of singling out conservative groups for scrutiny in determining their eligibility for tax-deductible charitable donations. It turned out that the IRS used words associated with both conservative and liberal politics to choose which groups to study.)

Other cracks had previously appeared in the wall of secrecy with which Mr. Trump has sought to surround his finances as president, so it is unclear whether the release of the records will reveal important revelations.

Prosecutors in New York have already obtained access to some tax records related to Trump, and his family business has been the subject of multiple investigations. The Trump Organization was convicted of tax fraud scheme this month. The Attorney General of New York has sued Mr. Trump and three of his childrenaccusing them of defrauding creditors and insurers by fraudulently overstating his assets.

New York Times also investigated Mr. Trump’s taxes, including obtaining data from tax returns in 2020, spanning more than two decades. He paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years The Times studied; he also reduced his tax bill with questionable measures, including a $72.9 million tax refund that, as of 2020, was subject to an IRS audit.

However, the reports received by the commission contain more recent data.

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