Donald Trump tax returns released by Congress on Friday miss this important piece of information

The release Friday of tax returns from former President Donald Trump’s four and two years ago in the White House is an important and overdue public service. The Oval Office, where Americans can review the taxes of their commander-in-chief, continues the tradition of transparency. It also ensures that more than three-and-a-half years of legal strife have failed to prevent Democrats from obtaining tax documents guaranteed to them under federal law in the House Ways and Means Committee.

But the result is still not satisfactory. Although presidents after Richard Nixon have announced the returns from the years leading up to their campaigns, the returns don’t go back to the taxpayer decades when Trump ran for president in 2016 and won with a smackdown. It is an important principle to follow as a matter of historical record. It would also be a warning shot for any future president who might want to keep their tax returns private.

Going further back could mean a different kind of protracted court battle. But it was the wrong decision, because the most illuminating part of Trump’s financial history is still buried.

Trump based his run on his personal brand as a savvy business operator who is actually a myth and a legend – an act of misdirection apparently so profound that he would likely make fabulist Representative-elect George Santos (RN.Y.). blush Full disclosure of these taxes would mean that future voters would at least be able to see that Trump is not the business genius he claims to be. And it could have made a difference in an election where Trump won the Electoral College against Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton with a combined 79,646 votes in key states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, out of more than 136 million votes cast nationally. Voters of the future certainly deserve this information, given that Trump is vying to reclaim the presidency in the 2024 election.

For more than a decade, Trump had starred in “The Apprentice,” a show that rekindled a moribund career that featured multiple businesses filing bankruptcy. News reports also showed that Trump was a highly irresponsible financial risk taker, reportedly hardening salespeople and lawyers. Many analyzes of Trump’s wealth have even revealed that Trump would have been much richer if he had invested his family legacy in an indexed fund and watched it rise in value over time. But we can’t fully judge Trump’s claims about pre-presidential business acumen, as currently publicly available documents only cover calendar years 2015-20.

To be sure, they contain a lot of useful information. After all, some information is better than nothing. As journalists, accountants, and other analysts examine the documents, we find bullion information that suggests Trump has a bank account in China, according to his 2015, 2016, and 2017 statements. Trump’s income from more than a dozen countries during his White House years.

Also, due to Trump’s lack of charitable contributions in 2020, Trump’s charitable donations have or are not. There is also interest on loans to his daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr., which means they may have shifted their assets to the younger generation and minimized them. gift tax.

At the very least, Friday’s statement confirms details of the extent of its losses from 2015 to 2017, in part from real estate and other poorly performing businesses. It only paid $750 in taxes after losing nearly $32 million and $13 million in 2016 and 2017, respectively. In 2020, Trump did not pay taxes.

Also, documents released Friday show that the tax office only began auditing Trump’s 2016 filings on April 3, 2019, more than two years after Trump took office, in violation of IRS rules regarding returns by presidents. And it happened that same day, when Representative Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on tax writing, asked the agency for information on Trump’s tax returns.

It is true that the delay in tax disclosure is due to Trump’s battle against tax disclosure. Despite the Democrats who took over the House Roads and Means Committee in early 2019, the Trump administration’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected the president’s tax returns, despite citing the section of the federal tax code that states that the Treasury will “provide” an individual’s returns if a formal written request is made from Congress. to publish.

The ensuing court battle was finally resolved only on November 22, when the Supreme Court gave the green light to the Ways and Means Committee to retrieve Trump’s tax returns from the former president’s accounting firm. The decision came just in time for the House of Democrats to release the documents, as Republicans reclaimed the majority on Tuesday.

Ultimately, it’s up to House Democrats to be so limited in the Trump tax documents released on Friday. According to the original 2019 letter they sent to the IRS, they only asked for a six-year period in the first place. As chairman of the Roads and Means Committee, Neal was the only Democrat allowed to claim Trump’s state tax returns—a step he refused to take.

Neal took heat from the progressive left as his will walked slowly. Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus at the time expressed frustration and anger at the Democratic leadership for not acting faster to access and publish the documents. Far-left lawmakers such as Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) have taken a necessary approach at all costs to pursue Trump, including urgent legal action to start the acquisition process. they argued. his tax return. “That’s what I ran for,” said Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) early in her first term. “There’s a sense of urgency.”

Frankly, the House of Democrats didn’t want to look like a fishing trip back years before Trump became president. As such, they phrased their case as looking at the effectiveness of mandatory IRS audits of all incumbent presidents’ tax returns. This gave his legal claims a clear legislative purpose. Going further back could mean a different kind of protracted court battle. But it was the wrong decision, because the most illuminating part of Trump’s financial history is still buried.

Friday’s announcement of Trump taxes is no small potato, of course. And like the 2022 results, where voters rejected a number of election deniers, it’s a sign of accountability for open government. But it’s more of an appetizer than just a main course complete with desserts.

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