EXPLAINER: What’s the debate over releasing Trump’s taxes?

Dec 22, 2022, 12:40 PM | Updated: 12:53 pm

FILE - Documents arrive as the House Ways & Means Committee holds a hearing regarding tax returns f...

FILE - Documents arrive as the House Ways & Means Committee holds a hearing regarding tax returns from former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday voted to release former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, raising the potential of additional revelations in the coming days related to the finances of the longtime businessman who broke political norms by refusing to voluntarily make public his returns as he sought the presidency.

Reports released by the committee, as well as Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, give a glimpse into Trump’s financial position before and during his presidency. Access to the tax records culminates of a yearslong legal fight that has played out everywhere from the campaign trail to the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court.

A look at the issues that have arisen from the controversy surrounding Trump’s taxes:


Since Richard Nixon — following media reports suggesting the then-president had taken questionable, large deductions on his individual tax returns — U.S. presidents and all major party nominees have voluntarily made at least summaries of their tax information available to the public.

Trump bucked that trend as a candidate, and then as president, repeatedly asserting that his taxes were “under audit” and therefore could not be released.

According to the reports released this week, an audit of Trump’s 2016 taxes was not begun until April 3, 2019, more than two years into Trump’s presidency. That date coincides with when Democratic Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, asked the IRS for information related to Trump’s tax returns.

The New York Times found that before Trump entered the White House, he was facing an IRS audit potentially tied to a $72.9 million tax refund arising from $700 million in losses he claimed in 2009. Documents released Tuesday indicate that Trump continued to collect tax benefits from those losses through 2018.



They are supposed to. The IRS has an internal policy that mandates audits of presidents and vice presidents. Representatives for President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama confirmed that each was audited for every year in office.

But in their report, committee Democrats said the audit process, which dates to 1977, was “dormant, at best” during the early years of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the committee voted to issue its report and make the materials public, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that Democrats would immediately introduce legislation to codify the IRS presidential audit policy into law. On Thursday, the House passed that measure, though it has little chance of becoming law in the final days of this Congress. Still, it is seen as a starting point for future efforts to bolster oversight of the presidency.

Some Republicans opposed to making Trump’s tax information publicly available argued that doing so would set a dangerous precedent and could open up anyone’s records if someone drew the ire of politicians in power. The GOP is poised to take over control of the House and its committees next month.



Trump is the first president in recent history to refuse to share tax information with the public. His finances are more complex than those of other presidents. Trump’s network has included hundreds of businesses, pass-through entities — the income of which is reported on individual, not corporate, returns — foreign and domestic properties, contracts and complex business interests.

According to information released this week, the IRS initially assigned just one staff member to Trump’s audit, which also highlight the immense funding challenges that the agency faces.

The House committee examined six years of Trump’s personal returns, as well as those of eight of his businesses. The committee raised red flags about Trump’s carryover losses — which could be used to avoid paying taxes — deductions tied to conservation and charitable donations, and loans to his children that could be taxable gifts.

The committee also found repeated faults with the approach by the IRS toward auditing Trump and his companies.

IRS agents in charge of the audits repeatedly failed to bring in specialists with expertise assessing the complicated structure of Trump’s holdings. They frequently determined that a limited examination was warranted because Trump hired a professional accounting firm that they assumed would make sure Trump “properly reports all income and deduction items correctly.”



Committee members and staff have said that it would take at least several days to make necessary redactions of sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers and contact information, before the returns are released to the public. Before Tuesday’s hearing, staff members wheeled several boxes of documents into the hearing room on trolleys, indicating the volume of materials under review.

On the legislative side, there is the House-approved measure that would codify the mandatory presidential audit policy into law with more stringent requirements, including “disclosure of certain audit information and related returns in a timely manner.”

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he will work to pass the bill.


Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

2 days ago

UoA student convicted of first-degree murder after killing professor...

Associated Press

Former Arizona grad student convicted of first-degree murder in 2022 shooting of professor

A former University of Arizona grad student was convicted of first-degree murder after fatally shooting a professor on campus two years ago.

2 days ago

Rudy Giuliani bankruptcy filing defamation lawsuit...

Associated Press

Ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona’s Kelli Ward plead not guilty in fake elector case

Giuliani appeared remotely for the arraignment that was held in a Phoenix courtroom. His trial will take place in October.

2 days ago

President Joe Biden gestures after speaking to graduating students at the Morehouse College commenc...

Associated Press

Biden tells Morehouse graduates that scenes in Gaza from the Israel-Hamas war break his heart, too

Joe Biden on Sunday offered his most direct recognition of U.S. students' anguish over the Israel-Hamas war.

4 days ago

Rudy Giuliani...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani is the final defendant served indictment in Arizona fake elector case

Rudy Giuliani has been served an indictment in Arizona's fake elector case for his role in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

5 days ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Collins Comfort Masters

Here's how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

Sponsored Articles


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

EXPLAINER: What’s the debate over releasing Trump’s taxes?