Donald Trump’s business and personal tax records released by Congress

After a long-drawn-out fight marked with tenacious obstruction by the 2020 election loser, the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday finally released six years of former President Donald Trump’s individual and business tax returns ending six years of delays and legal wrangling.

Trump’s tax returns show the 2020 election loser paid very little in federal income taxes the first and last year of his presidency, claiming huge losses that helped limit his tax bill, among other revelations.

Though Trump promised to release his returns during the 2016 campaign, he repeatedly refused to share the information throughout his presidency and filed lawsuits to prevent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or his accountants from making the documents available to various investigators, Congress, or the public.

The election loser ultimately lost this fight too, even after taking the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, which Trump significantly altered by appointing one-third of the justices.

“It is a bittersweet moment,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), a member of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, wrote on Twitter, lamenting how long it took for lawmakers to obtain the documents and make them public. “I will read through them today and you should too. Every American deserves this sunlight. This is what democracy is about.”

“For six long years, we fought to release these documents because Americans deserve to know if their chief executive is compromised. But today’s victory is bigger than one crooked man or party,” said Pascrell, who called the action a victory “to uphold sunlight and democracy.”

“This is a triumph for the idea that no one person is above the law. Congress is the Article I branch. Our power to oversee the executive is broad,” said Pascrell. “That power was illegally stymied by Trump and his adjutants for years. All Americans should be proud of our actions today to uphold transparency and fairness.”

Pascrell has been the most vocal proponent in Congress for reviewing Trump’s tax returns, after he failed to keep the promise to release the documents.

“If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns. Absolutely. I would love to do that,” said Trump in a May 2014 television interview, 13 months before launching his presidential campaign.

“I want to tell you right now I have no problem with giving my tax returns,” he told Fox News in April 2015, two months before he announced his candidacy.

In January 2016, Trump claimed that he intended to release them but that the returns were so massive that it was taking time to review them. “We’re working on that now. I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” he said.

Trump began lying about not disclosing his returns with a false claim that they were being audited.

“Twelve years, or something like that. Every year, they audit me, audit me, audit me,” he said at a GOP candidates’ debate on Feb. 25, 2016. “I will absolutely give my return, but I’m being audited now for two or three years, so I can’t do it until the audit is finished. Obviously.”

Trump wound up becoming the first major party presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to release his tax returns — a custom that was established after the scandal-plagued White House of Richard Nixon.

Previous presidents released their tax returns annually, even though those returns were also subject to a routine audit.

Since February 2017, Pascrell has led the call for the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means to invoke Section 6103 of the tax code to obtain Trump’s tax returns. In the 115th Congress, Republicans voted 18 times to block Democratic resolutions seeking the tax returns. 

The law, however, states plainly that the heads of the Senate Finance Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation can request the return of any taxpayer, provided that the information is reviewed in a closed-door setting.

“The Democrats should have never done it, the Supreme Court should have never approved it, and it’s going to lead to horrible things for so many people,” said Trump, following the release. “The ‘Trump’ tax returns once again show how proudly successful I have been and how I have been able to use depreciation and various other tax deductions as an incentive for creating thousands of jobs and magnificent structures and enterprises.”

In fact, the documents substantiate claims that the wealthy are often allowed to escape responsibility to pay a fair share for the benefits they get from living in a free society.

After ProPublica obtained a vast cache of IRS information showing how billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth — sometimes, even nothing — many working middle-class people learned for the first time that those with income from wealth can avoid income tax altogether.

Trump’s returns show that he paid very little in federal income taxes in the first and last year of his presidency, claiming huge losses that helped limit his tax bill, among other revelations he made several unlikely claims that auditors should question.

A report by the House Ways and Means panel suggested that Trump cheated on his taxes, “through the complex arrangements of his personal and business finances, has engaged in aggressive tax strategies and decades-long tax avoidance schemes, including taking a questionable $916 million deduction, using a grantor trust to control assets, manipulating tax code provisions pertaining to real estate taxes, and extensively using pass-through entities.”

The Joint Committee on Taxation, which reviewed the returns, flagged that Trump claimed a large number of questionable items on his tax returns, including eyebrow-raising amounts of interest he claims to have received from loans to his children that the bipartisan committee said could indicate Trump was disguising gifts.

There are numerous red flags that raise questions about Trump’s returns, such as listing an identical amount of company expenses and profits.

For example, in 2017, Trump claimed his business DJT Aerospace LLC, which operates Trump’s personal helicopter, claimed $42,965 in income. It also claimed the exact same amount – $42,965 – in expenses. In other words, every single dollar – to the dollar – that the company earned was negated by the company’s expenses, such as payroll, fuel and other items. That left the company with zero income – and nothing to tax.

“Total expenses equaling total income is a statistical impossibility,” said Martin Sheil, former supervisory special agent for IRS’ Criminal Investigation unit, who added that the figures are not evidence something illegal was done. “It just doesn’t happen.”

The committee previously reported that said the Internal Revenue Service failed to properly audit Trump while he was in office.

Income from work is taxed before wage-earners can get their hands on it. After the government gets its cut, there isn’t a lot left over to devote to buying stocks, collectibles (e.g., art, classic cars, luxury watches, etc.), real estate, etc. so ordinary Americans are unable to take advantage of the tricks wealthy people use to avoid paying taxes.

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