The IRS failed to pursue mandatory audits of Donald Trump on a timely basis during his presidency, a congressional panel found on Tuesday, raising questions about statements by the former president and leading members of his administration who claimed he could not release his tax filings because of the ongoing reviews.
A report released by the Democratic majority on the House Ways and Means Committee indicated the Trump administration might have disregarded an IRS requirement dating to 1977 that mandates audits of a president’s tax filings. The IRS didn’t begin to audit Trump’s 2016 tax filings until April 3, 2019, more than two years into Trump’s presidency and just months after Democrats took control of the House. That date coincided with panel Chairman Richard Neal’s request to the IRS for information related to Trump’s tax returns.
There was no suggestion that Trump, who has announced a third presidential run, sought to directly influence the IRS or discourage the agency from reviewing his tax information. But the report found that the audit process was “dormant, at best.”
The 29-page report was published just hours after the committee voted along party lines to release Trump’s tax returns in the coming days, raising the potential of additional revelations related to the finances of the onetime businessman who broke political norms by refusing to voluntarily release his returns as he sought the presidency. The vote was the culmination of a yearslong fight between Trump and Democrats that has played out everywhere from the campaign trail to the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court.
Democrats on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee argued that transparency and the rule of law were at stake, while Republicans countered that the release would set a dangerous precedent with regard to the loss of privacy protections.
“This is about the presidency, not the president,” Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, told reporters.
Texas Representative Kevin Brady, the panel’s top Republican member, said, “Regrettably, the deed is done.”
“Over our objections in opposition, Democrats in the Ways and Means Committee have unleashed a dangerous new political weapon that overturns decades of privacy protections,” he told reporters. “The era of political targeting, and of Congress’s enemies list, is back and every American, every American taxpayer, who may get on the wrong side of the majority in Congress is now at risk.”
Trump spent much of Tuesday evening releasing statements on his social media platform that were unrelated to his tax returns. The IRS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment