Donald Trump's tax returns released by Democrats in US Congress

Former president's financial statements are expected to show he paid little or no income tax for years

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Democrats in the US Congress released six years’ worth of Donald Trump's tax returns on Friday, the culmination of a years-long effort to investigate the former president's finances.

The documents shed light on the sources of the former president’s earnings and the taxes he paid, including in 2020, when he paid no federal income tax.

Mr Trump reported large losses at his businesses thanks to favourable deductions that allowed him to minimise his tax bills. Congress’s non-partisan tax experts have said some of those deductions warrant more scrutiny.

Every American president and major-party candidate since Richard Nixon has voluntarily made at least summaries of their tax information available to the public. The issue of Mr Trump's taxes became a hot topic when he was campaigning for the presidency in 2015 and 2016.

At that time, he repeatedly claimed he had no objection to releasing his tax returns but said they were under a “very complicated” audit.

However the Internal Revenue Service did not start to audit Mr Trump's 2016 tax returns until 2019, more than two years into his presidency. He launched a legal challenge to keep his returns private, but the Supreme Court last month ruled in the committee's favour.

“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,” Mr Trump said in a statement on Friday following the release of his tax information.

He added that the returns show “how proudly successful I have been and how I have been able to use depreciation and various other tax deductions as an incentive for creating thousands of jobs and magnificent structures and enterprises”.

The Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee released the returns as part of their investigation into the IRS's presidential audit programme, which found that the agency had failed to examine Mr Trump’s tax returns while in office, as has been done with previous presidents.

Mr Trump, according to the filings, reported having bank accounts in China, Ireland and the UK in 2015 through 2017, even while he was president. Starting in 2018, however, he only reported an account in the UK.

The returns also show that Mr Trump claimed foreign tax credits for taxes he paid on various business ventures around the world, including licensing arrangements for use of his name on development projects and his golf courses in Scotland and Ireland.

In several returns, Mr Trump appears to have paid more in foreign taxes than he did in net US federal income taxes, making payments to countries and territories including Azerbaijan, China, India, Indonesia, Panama, the Philippines, Turkey and the UAE.

The records release comes days before Republicans retake control of the House and weeks after Mr Trump began another campaign for the White House.

Republicans have condemned the quest for the tax returns as politically motivated.

Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the panel, said that releasing Mr Trump’s tax returns was a grievous mistake and it will lead to Congress publishing the tax information of “private citizens, political enemies, business and labour leaders or even the Supreme Court justices themselves”.

“In the long run, Democrats will come to regret it,” he said in a statement.

A report last week summarised Mr Trump’s tax filings and also flagged dozens of potential audit triggers that the IRS didn’t pursue.

The release of his taxes is the latest blow for Mr Trump, who was impeached twice by the Democratic-led House only to be acquitted both times by the US Senate, and now faces legal woes as he mounts a 2024 re-election bid.

Mr Trump, 76, and his businesses lost tens of millions of dollars from 2015 to 2020 and he was able to use those losses, along with claiming large tax breaks, to minimise his tax bills.

It is legal to do so provided he didn’t underreport earnings or inflate the size of the deductions, which can only be determined through a comprehensive audit.

The returns also give more details on how Mr Trump benefitted from his 2017 tax-cut law, which included levy breaks and expanded write-offs for some top earners.

Agencies contributed to this report

Trump Tower in New York. AP
Updated: December 30, 2022, 10:16 PM