After years of legal wrangling, a US congressional committee has released tax filings from former President Donald Trump. The Democratic-led House Treasury Committee posted thousands of pages of Trump's tax documents from 2015 to 2020 online. It shows, according to the panel, that for several years Trump paid little or no federal income tax, despite boasting about his wealth. For years, Trump had used legal means to resist handing over the documents to the Finance Committee and finally failed in the US Supreme Court a few weeks ago.
The committee had previously submitted two reports with a large amount of information from the tax documents and decided with the majority of Democrats to make the original documents accessible to the public, at least in part – or with sensitive information blacked out. That now followed. It's a massive amount of data.
Detailed information from Trump's tax returns for the years 2015 to 2020 was already listed in the pre-summary reports that the committee published last week. So from the time just before and throughout his tenure as President. Accordingly, in 2016, the year of his election, and in 2017, his first year in the White House, Trump paid only $750 in federal income tax and claimed high losses. Then in 2018 he reported millions in profits and paid about $1 million in income tax. In the last year of office, 2020, Trump paid no income tax at all.
The "New York Times" had already published parts of Trump's tax return before the 2020 presidential election. The low income tax at the federal level was made possible by depreciation and credits, among other things because of high losses. Trump denied this at the time and claimed he had paid "millions".
There are several tax recipients in the USA. One is the federal and state governments. Trump pointed out two years ago that he pays most of his taxes in New York: "I paid a lot, I also paid a lot of taxes to the state, the state of New York demands a lot."
The finance committee recently complained: "Numerous reports revealed that the former president had pursued aggressive tax strategies and decades-long tax avoidance strategies through the complex regulations of his personal and business finances." Also, in one of the two reports the panel released last week, the IRS failed to properly screen Trump. In the four years of his tenure, only one mandatory audit had been initiated and not a single one had been completed. Trump had always emphasized during his presidency that his tax documents were being checked - which is why he could not publish them.
Contrary to usual practice in the USA, the real estate entrepreneur Trump did not make his tax returns public either as a presidential candidate or after moving into the White House. Critics therefore suspected that he had something to hide, also because he used all legal means to defend himself against the disclosure of the documents.
The Finance Committee in the House of Representatives had been trying for years to get hold of the tax documents. During Trump's administration, the Treasury Department initially stood in the way. Only in the administration of his Democratic successor Joe Biden last year did the Treasury Department finally instruct the IRS to hand over the documents to the committee. Trump defended himself in court and tried various instances until his only option was to go to the Supreme Court, where he ultimately failed in November.
This was a last-minute success for the committee: Since the Republicans won the majority in the House of Representatives in the congressional elections and will be in charge there from next week, the Democratic-led body had little time to do anything about the matter.
Trump had previously railed against the planned publication of the documents: "You can't learn much from tax returns, but it's illegal to publish them if they're not yours," he warned. The Republican announced in November that he intends to run again as a presidential candidate for his party in the 2024 election.
It could take a while until all the documents have been evaluated in detail. Ahead of the publication, CBS News wrote: "Whether Americans will be able to do much with the documents is another question. Trump's finances are complex, and even the tax authorities have complained about screening each of his 400 or so companies for possible income to have to."
Sources: DPA, CBS News, "New York Times"