The Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee voted Tuesday to release former President Donald Trump’s tax returns once their personal information was redacted.
The panel approved a partisan ballot motion to release the material to the House, clearing the way for the public release of Trump’s tax returns. It is unclear when the public will see the material. The vote passed, with all Democrats voting yes and all Republicans voting no.
Committee members said after Tuesday’s vote that the committee will issue a report with additional analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation. The Ways and Means Committee will also release all the information contained in Chairman Richard Neal’s request, which will include Trump’s tax returns from 2015 to 2020.
However, these underlying documents will first require major revisions. Neal told reporters on Tuesday that he expected the return to be announced “within a few days.”
Neal also would not say whether he saw any red flags in Trump’s taxes — whether in his business or personal filings. “I think we need to leave that to the tax man,” he said.
“It’s going to be a summary of the returns, and then the returns themselves. That’s what we just voted for,” the Democratic representative said. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania.
The committee will also issue legislation to codify the presidential audit program into law.
Neal told reporters the president’s audit plan doesn’t work on Trump’s taxes. The Ways and Means Committee first sought Trump’s returns in 2019 as part of an assessment of the IRS’ plans to audit the president.
“The research related to the mandatory audit program is non-existent,” he told reporters after the committee hearing. “Once again, the mandatory program is pretty much non-existent, as you’ll likely see in the next few minutes.”
He reiterated over and over that their report showed that the presidential audit “didn’t happen.”
Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the committee, attacked Democrats for weaponizing Trump’s financial information. Brady said the committee voted to release six years of Trump’s returns, as well as those of eight affiliated businesses.
“Clearly, almost all of the audits that the IRS is conducting have not been completed. So you have to acknowledge that any description of the returns themselves, is currently incomplete,” Brady said.
The much-anticipated meeting, which began in public, quickly moved into private session, years in the making but just as Democrats had just days to act on whether to release the former president’s tax returns. While Ways and Means has historical precedent for releasing confidential tax information, the decision to make it public will have strong political implications, as Trump has announced he will run for president in 2024.
The committee has had access to Trump’s taxes for weeks after winning a lengthy legal battle that began in the spring of 2019. Neal requested in April 2019 Trump’s first six years of taxes, as well as tax returns from eight of his businesses.
The panel’s Republican leader, Brady of Texas, told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s meeting that the release of Trump’s tax returns would constitute “a dangerous new political weapon with reach far beyond the former president, And roll back decades of privacy protections for ordinary Americans since I took office. Watergate reform.”
“We are united in our concern that Democrats could take unprecedented action today that would jeopardize the right of every American to be protected from political attack in Congress,” Brady said.
Democrats on the committee would legally release information about Trump’s taxes under Section 6103 of the tax code, but Republicans are prepared to argue that Democrats are abusing the provision, attacking political enemies and potentially unleashing a system that even individuals can Possessing personal information about themselves would be exposed if they were targeted by the commission.
Immediately after the committee’s Tuesday meeting began, the panel voted to go into closed session. Members and staff in the room would have been free to discuss the information contained in Trump’s tax returns and begin a debate about what to do next.
When Neal asked Trump for tax information in 2019, he wasn’t the first chairman to use a mysterious section of the tax code known as 6013 to gather confidential tax information. The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee has repeatedly used the same statute for investigations, and the Joint Tax Committee has also used it to obtain information on former President Richard Nixon’s 1970s taxes.
According to the House Ways and Means Committee, the information was requested and received without a legal battle. According to a House Ways and Means Committee memo released earlier this summer, Nixon voluntarily released some of his returns, but the JCT requested the use of 6103 for additional returns. Republicans have also used Act 6103. Back in 2014, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp led a committee that released classified tax information to further investigate whether the IRS was unfairly targeting conservative organizations when it decided to investigate groups.
While The New York Times obtained decades of Trump’s personal tax information as far back as 2020, Neal’s request could shed light on Trump’s finances in additional years and paint a picture of the former president’s struggles as he became president. A picture of how its business entity and personal wealth was used in the years before and after. president.
Trump broke with tradition in 2016 by refusing to release any of his personal tax returns.
Democrats have long argued that Trump’s taxes could provide necessary information on whether the president has any entanglements that could affect his decision-making as president. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee have argued in court that they need Trump’s tax returns so they can better understand the presidential audit program, which is supposed to regularly audit the returns of every president-elect and vice president.
Neal didn’t just ask Trump for his original tax returns, however. Neal also requested administrative documents and paperwork, which could include notes from IRS officials or an audit of Trump’s returns. The information could paint a picture of what kind of scrutiny the IRS has conducted on Trump in the past and whether those scrutiny have changed since he became president.
If the committee votes to make the information public, it could reveal just how rich Trump is, how much he gives to charities and how much he pays in taxes. The New York Times report in 2020 made it clear that Trump carried forward years of business losses to be able to legally avoid paying taxes for many of those years, but Ways and Means would also receive additional years of Trump’s general tax.