US House moves to expand oversight after Trump tax revelations

Bill requiring the US tax enforcement agency to audit presidents’ tax filings faces uphill battle to become law.

Former US President Donald Trump
Tax filings released on Tuesday by a House committee after a years-long legal battle showed that former President Donald Trump paid no income tax in 2020 [File: Andrew Harnik/AP]

The Democratic-led House of Representatives has voted to require the US Internal Revenue Service to audit presidents’ tax filings after lawmakers concluded the agency did not properly examine Donald Trump’s returns while he was in the White House.

The legislation, which passed on a largely party-line 222-201 vote on Thursday, faces long odds of passing the Senate and becoming law in the final days that Democrats control both chambers of Congress. Trump’s fellow Republicans are due to take control of the House in January.

However, it gives Democrats another chance to talk about Trump’s tax returns, which he fought for years to keep private even though other presidential candidates have voluntarily disclosed them for decades.

Tax filings released on Tuesday by a House panel after a years-long legal battle, showed that he paid no income tax in 2020, his final full year in office, despite millions of dollars in earnings from his sprawling business empire.

The House Ways and Means Committee also said the IRS did not properly examine his returns while he was in office.

Trump’s tax records show that his income and tax liability fluctuated dramatically from 2015 to 2020 during his first presidential bid and subsequent term in office. They show that Trump and his wife Melania minimised their tax liability through large deductions and losses and paid little or no income tax in several of those years.

Although the IRS, the tax enforcement agency, is supposed to audit presidents’ tax returns each year, it did not do so for Trump until Democrats pressed for action in 2019. The law would make those IRS audits a legal requirement.

The IRS assigned only one agent to Trump’s audits most of the time, the panel found, and did not examine many of the complex deductions claimed by Trump when he was in office.

The IRS has declined to comment.

The legislation passed by the House would require the IRS to examine presidential tax returns each year and report on the status of those audits.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat, said the legislation aimed to strengthen presidential oversight, not target Trump. “This is not about a president; this is about the presidency going forward,” he said on the House floor.

Republicans say the legislation would set a dangerous precedent by making it easier for lawmakers to release private citizens’ tax information.

“This will provide a dangerous new political weapon that invites political retribution,” said Representative Kevin Brady, the panel’s top Republican.

Source: Reuters