The Democrat-led House of Representatives has voted to require the US tax office to audit presidents’ tax returns after lawmakers concluded that the agency did not properly audit Donald Trump’s tax returns while he was in the White House.
The bill, which passed on Thursday by a majority of 222 votes to 201, faces major opportunities to pass the Senate and become law in the last few days when Democrats control both houses of Congress. Trump’s fellow Republicans are expected to take control of the House of Representatives in January.
But it gives Democrats another opportunity to talk about Trump’s tax returns, which he fought to keep secret for years, even though other presidential candidates have released them voluntarily for decades.
Tax returns released Tuesday by a House panel after a years-long legal battle showed that he paid no income tax in 2020, his last full year in office, despite millions of dollars in income from his sprawling business empire.
The House Ways and Means Committee also stated that the IRS did not properly audit his tax returns during his tenure.
Trump’s tax records show that his income and tax liability fluctuated dramatically during his first presidential run and subsequent term in office from 2015 to 2020. They show that Trump and his wife Melania minimized their tax liability through high deductions and losses and paid little or no income tax in several of these years.
Although the IRS, the tax authority, is supposed to audit presidents’ tax returns every year, it only did so for Trump when Democrats pushed for action in 2019. The law would make these IRS audits a legal requirement.
The panel found that most of the time, the IRS only assigned one representative to carry out Trump’s audits and did not audit many of the complex deductions that Trump claimed during his tenure.
The IRS declined to comment.
The bill passed by the House of Representatives would require the IRS to audit the president’s tax returns each year and report on the status of those audits.
Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, a Democrat, said the legislation is aimed at strengthening presidential oversight and not aimed at Trump. “It’s not about a president, it’s about the future presidency,” he said in the House of Representatives.
Republicans say the legislation would set a dangerous precedent by making it easier for lawmakers to publish tax information for private citizens.
“This will be a dangerous new political weapon that leads to political retribution,” said Republican candidate Kevin Brady.