Only one Trump tax return as president got mandatory IRS audit, report says

Politics

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally to support Republican candidates ahead of midterm elections, in Dayton, Ohio, November 7, 2022.
Gaelen Morse | Reuters

Only one of Donald Trump‘s annual federal income tax returns began being audited by the IRS when he served as president, despite the agency having a policy dating to 1977 of conducting mandatory tax examinations of sitting presidents, a House committee said in a new report Tuesday evening.

And that IRS audit of Trump’s 2016 income tax return was not completed by the time he left office in January 2021, the report by the Ways and Means Committee found.

And neither of two Trump-related business entities that the IRS told the committee were part of the mandatory examination program was designated for an audit in five of the six years covered by an investigation, according to the report.

And in that sixth year, in 2017, there is “no indication” the entities’ tax returns were designated for audit, the report found.

“Clearly, the mandatory audit program was dormant, at best, during the prior Administration,” the report said.

The report was released shortly after the Democrat-led panel voted along party lines to authorize the public release of redacted copies of Trump’s federal tax returns and those of eight related business entities in coming days.

Those returns were obtained from the IRS after Trump lost a three-year legal battle, which ended with the Supreme Court ruling against him, in an effort to prevent the committee from getting the records.

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, in a statement with the report said, “We anticipated the IRS would expand the mandatory audit program to account for the complex nature of the former president’s financial situation yet found no evidence of that.”

“This is a major failure of the IRS under the prior administration, and certainly not what we had hoped to find,” Neal said.

The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

The report found that when Trump was in the White House, the IRS failed to designate for mandatory audit Trump’s tax return for 2015, when he was running for president, and then again for the returns filed for the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 tax years.

“The former President’s individual income tax returns filed in 2018, 2019, and 2020 were not selected for examination until after he left office and only the 2016 tax return was subject to a mandatory examination,” the report said.

And, “Notably, the IRS sent a letter to the former President notifying him that his tax year 2015
return was selected for examination on April 3, 2019, which is the date the Chairman sent the
initial request to the IRS for the former President’s return information and related tax return.”

The Ways and Means Committee report recommended that there should be a statutory requirement that a president’s tax returns be audited by the IRS each year, “with disclosure of certain audit information and related returns in a timely manner.”

“Such statutory requirement would ensure the integrity of the IRS, enable IRS employees to fully audit all issues, and restore confidence in the Federal tax system,” the report said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement late Tuesday night said the House “will move swiftly to advance Chairman Richard Neal’s legislation requiring the Internal Revenue Service to conduct an annual audit of the President’s finances.”

Trump has refused for years to voluntarily disclose his returns to the public, claiming they were being audited by the IRS.

The tax agency in 1977 adopted an internal policy that supposedly requires mandatory audits of sitting presidents and vice presidents.

But the report said that since then, “Congress has been told nothing about the operation of
this program.”

“Until recently, the Committee did not know for certain whether the IRS conducted these
mandatory examinations and, if so, whether they were in accordance with this policy, thorough,
and fair,” the report said.

Read the Ways and Means Committee’s report on Trump’s tax returns and the IRS review of them here.

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