By Jack Phillips
The House Ways and Means Committee on Friday released six years of Donald Trump’s taxes, ending several years’ worth of protracted court battles over releasing the former president’s financial documents.
The committee’s decision to release Trump’s taxes comes as Democrats are slated to cede control of the House next week. Republicans, who took the majority on Nov. 8, are scheduled to take over House committees.
Last week, the Democrat-led Ways and Means panel voted to release the tax returns before releasing two reports, with one saying that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) did not audit the former president for the first two years he was in office. paid about $1.1 million in net federal income taxes in 2018 and 2019.
According to a review of Friday’s releases, Trump and former first lady Melania Trump reported negative income in four of the six tax years. In 2020, the former president reported a loss of $4.7 million and paid $0 in federal taxes. In 2018 and 2019, the couple paid about $1.1 million in net federal income taxes combined in 2018 and 2019.
“Ways and Means is entrusted with great responsibilities. Today, the weight of our job is heavy. Congress serves as a check on the Executive Branch, and our Committee is entrusted with oversight of our revenue system. We all come to Ways and Means with the goal of creating a fairer tax code. Because at the root of it all, it is our federal tax system that funds the democracy we all cherish and love,” the House Ways and Means said in a release on Friday in announcing the decision to make Trump’s returns public.
The panel said that it believed that “mandatory audits were being conducted promptly and in accordance with IRS policies. However, our review found that under the prior Administration the program was dormant. We know now, the first mandatory audit was opened two years into his presidency. On the same day this Committee requested his returns.”
Ahead of Friday’s disclosure, Trump’s 2024 campaign released a video and said it was an abuse of power. Previously, Trump and other Republicans have decried the move as politically motivated that doesn’t serve the public’s interest.
“There is no legitimate legislative purpose for their action. And if you look at what they’ve done, it’s so sad for our country,” Trump said in a video released Friday. “It’s nothing but another deranged political witch hunt which has been going on from the day I came down an escalator in Trump Tower.”
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee, made a similar statement and warned it’s “a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president and overturns decades of privacy protections for average Americans that have existed since the Watergate reform.”
Trump’s federal income tax returns were released for the years 2015 to 2020, along with tax records for some of his business entities. The panel had sought the records since 2019 when Trump was president, and he tried to block their release in court.
Friday’s disclosure appears to show thousands of pages within several dozen files, including personal returns filed by Trump and his wife Melania, along with the aforementioned business entities such as DJT Managing Member LLC and DJT Holdings.
A top tax lawyer, Martin Press of the Florida-based Gunster law firm, told USA Today that the returns need to be viewed under the proper context.
“An income tax return is merely that,” Press told the paper. “It determines what is income and how it is taxed. It is not designed as a balance sheet showing historical or current values of assets.”
For years, Democrats have long sought Trump’s returns and suggested the former president engaged in malfeasance—a narrative that echoed through corporate media outlets. The Trump administration did not comply with a 2019 request for the documents, triggering a lengthy court battle that spanned the remainder of his presidency and after he left office.
Court battles over the documents lasted until November when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block court rulings and allowed the Ways and Means panel to get access to them. Presidents are not mandated by law to release their returns.
“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,” Trump also said Friday.