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House committee votes on Donald Trump’s personal and business tax records

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The House Ways and Means Committee voted Tuesday to make public a report about President Donald Trump’s tax returns — potentially ending years of speculation about what they might reveal about his business dealings and personal wealth.

The committee voted on party lines to release a report and “supporting materials” but did not immediately make clear that the former president’s returns were among the materials. The committee obtained six-years worth of returns after years of legal wrangling.

“The staff is authorized to make technical corrections to the report and to redact sensitive personal identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, street addresses, personal identification numbers and banking information,” committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said.

The Ways and Means Committee had spent hours in a closed-door session before taking the vote.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the ranking member, criticized the Democrats’ move and said committee members did not know “exactly what we are releasing” when they voted.

The move is could spark threats of some sort of retaliation from Republicans, who have already vowed to launch probing investigations into President Joe Biden and his family. Some Republicans have already accused Neal of seeking the returns solely for political reasons.

Neal defended the vote immediately afterward.

“This was not about being punitive, it was not about malicious, and there were no leaks from the committee,” he said. “We adhered carefully to the law.”

Brady told reporters ahead of the meeting that Democrats were pushing an “unprecedented action that will jeopardize the right of every American to be protected from political targeting by Congress.”

“No party in Congress should hold that power. It is the power to embarrass, harass or destroy a private citizen through disclosure of their tax returns,” Brady said.

Trump was the first president to refuse to make his tax returns public since the 1970s.

Neal had maintained he needed to review the returns for “policy, not politics.”

“The IRS has a policy of auditing the tax returns of all sitting presidents and vice-presidents, yet little is known about the effectiveness of this program. On behalf of the American people, the Ways and Means Committee must determine if that policy is being followed, and, if so, whether these audits are conducted fully and appropriately. In order to fairly make that determination, we must obtain President Trump’s tax returns and review whether the IRS is carrying out its responsibilities,” Neal said in a statement in April 2019. 

But Trump’s battle to keep the returns out of the committee’s hands dragged on for so long that the panel now has little time to act. The returns were turned over at the end of November after the Supreme Court refused Trump’s request to take action.

Trump bashed the high court on social media after the ruling. “The Supreme Court has lost its honor, prestige, and standing, & has become nothing more than a political body, with our Country paying the price,” he wrote on his platform Truth Social.

While tax returns are confidential under federal law, there are some exceptions — including when the chair of the Ways and Means Committee requests them.

Neal did so in 2019 after Democrats took control of the House, but Trump’s Treasury Department refused to comply, leading the committee to sue to get the returns.

Trump’s taxes have been an endless source of speculation ever since he refused to release them during the 2016 election, saying that they were under audit and that he would release them when the audit was finished.

When Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton accused him at a debate of hiding his returns because they would show he paid no federal taxes, Trump replied, “That makes me smart.”

He said after he became president that he might release them after he was out of office. “Oh, at some point I’ll release them. Maybe I’ll release them after I’m finished, because I’m very proud of them, actually. I did a good job,” he said. 

Despite Trump’s best efforts to keep his finances under wraps, The New York Times reported on some of his returns throughout his presidency and, in 2020, reported that it had obtained two decades of his tax information.

The information showed he had not paid any income taxes in 10 of the previous 15 years, mostly because he reported significant losses. In both the year he won the presidency and his first year in office, he paid only $750 in federal income tax, the newspaper found.

NBC News had not seen or verified any of the documents reported by The Times.

Asked about the report at the time, Trump said that the story was “made up” and that he has “paid a lot of money in state” taxes, but he would not say how much. He later tweeted that he had “paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits.”

Ways and Means is not the first committee to ever get ahold of a president’s tax returns. 

The head of the Joint Committee on Taxation requested several years of then-President Richard Nixon’s tax returns in 1973 and 1974, as well as returns for first lady Pat Nixon and their daughter and son-in-law.

The committee’s eventual report on Nixon’s taxes included a copy of returns that Nixon had already made public, but not the earlier returns. The report did make reference to some of the information it had collected from those earlier returns. 

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