IRS documents on Trump are available to the Ways and Means Committee. The committee was granted access to Mr. Trump’s tax returns last month after the Supreme Court eliminated the final roadblock after years of litigation. There is little time left for Democrats to act before they lose control of the House majority and committee on January 3.
The meeting notice provided on Friday does not clarify which papers, studies, or analyses the committee may make public. The group has concentrated its efforts and legal argument on modifications to the Internal Revenue Service’s practice for yearly audits of presidents, a non-mandatory agency regulation.
Under the tax code, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, now Representative Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), can seek tax returns and documents from the IRS, and he and the agents he appoints can then review them. The committee may choose to make these normally-confidential records public as part of its report to the House following a closed-door review.
Under the tax code, the committee has the discretionary right to incorporate secret tax-return information in public reports to the House. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), a senior member of Ways and Means who has been a persistent supporter of getting the returns, stated, “God willing, this is the final chapter.”
Mr. Neal stated that he had already appointed his agents. At the request of Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the panel’s top Republican, he also selected several agents, a move that might allow the GOP to draft its response to whatever the majority produces.
The Republicans and Mr. Trump have suggested that the efforts of the Democrats are just political. The attorneys for Mr. Trump said that the study of the IRS presidential audit program was a pretext for disclosing the tax returns. Friday, Mr. Trump’s spokesperson had no immediate reaction.
Mr. Brady stated last month that the Democrats are creating a deadly new political battleground where no America is secure.
The Ways and Means have already made tax records public. To convince the government to charge former IRS official Lois Lerner, the Republican-led committee published previously classified information on charitable organizations in 2014. In this instance, the committee convened in an executive session before releasing the records shortly after that.
Mr. Neal sought tax records for Mr. Trump and the many organizations he owns or controls from 2015 through 2020. Mr. Trump has not published his tax returns, unlike his prior predecessors, other major-party candidates, and President Biden.
Mr. Neal also sought IRS audit information about Mr. Trump and his enterprises. Other presidents have not disclosed comparable audit records. Mr. Trump complained about ongoing IRS audits even before he became president, but little is known about the nature or progress of these investigations.
Mr. Neal may have sought or gotten audit documents for presidents other than Mr. Trump, allowing him and his team to compare audits conducted by different administrations.
Mr. Neal told reporters on December 1: that the benefit of our legal action was that we would scrutinize the auditing procedure that the IRS does about the presidential and vice presidential tax returns. Neal claims they have stayed within their stated mission.
Tax Policy Center senior fellow Steve Rosenthal said the committee’s request needed to cover more prior years or more of Mr. Trump’s businesses to present a complete picture of his tax troubles and audits.
Mr. Rosenthal does not believe that the Ways and Means Committee will find anything of interest in Trump’s tax returns from 2015 through 2020. Mr. Rosenthal cited published claims of significant reported losses in prior years that Mr. Trump may have carried over to offset revenue. Mr. Rosenthal stated that a more exhaustive investigation would require more time and documentation.
Although Democrats will lose control of the House on January 3, and Republicans show little interest in pursuing the issue. Senate control will remain with the Democrats. The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, has the same authority as Ways and Means. Mr. Wyden has deferred to Mr. Neal about Trump’s tax returns.
The magnitude of the effort and the limited time available for committee staff to study the tax returns might prompt legislators to make them public.
The House Ways and Means Committee has planned a closed-door hearing on Tuesday, where legislators are expected to review former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and may decide to reveal a portion of them.