Donald Trump’s tax returns released by Congress on Friday miss this important information

Friday’s statement from former President Donald Trump tax returns of his four years in the White House and the previous two years is an important and long-awaited public service. It ensures the continuation of the half-century tradition of transparency in the Oval Office where Americans can review their commander-in-chief’s taxes. It also ensures that legal disputes for more than 3 1/2 years could not prevent Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining the tax documents guaranteed to them by federal law.

But the result is still unsatisfactory. The results don’t go back to Trump’s decades as a taxpayer before he ran for president in 2016 and won with a shock, even though presidents from Richard Nixon on have released results for the years leading up to their elections. bells. It is an important principle to follow as a matter of historical record. It would also have been a warning shot to any future president who wanted to keep his tax returns private.

Going back further could have meant a different kind of protracted court fight. But it was the wrong decision, as the most revealing part of Trump’s financial history remains buried.

Trump built his career on his personal brand as a savvy business operator, which was, in fact, a myth and a legend — an act of distraction so seemingly profound it would probably make Rep.-elect George Santos (RN.Y.) blush. Full disclosure of those taxes would have meant that future voters, at the very least, would have been able to see that Trump was not the business genius he claimed to be. And it could have made a difference in an election in which Trump won the Electoral College over his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by one 79,646 combined votes in the key swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin outside of more than 136 million cast nationwide. Future voters surely deserve that information as Trump is running to regain the presidency in the 2024 election.

Trump had starred on “The Apprentice” for more than a decade, a show that revived a dying career which included having their businesses file bankruptcy multiple times. News reports have also shown that Trump has been a great irresponsible financial risk taker who supposedly rigid sellers Y lawyers. Various analyzes of Trump’s wealth have even found that he be much richer if he had put his family inheritance into an index fund and watched it appreciate over time. But we can’t fully judge Trump’s claims about his pre-presidency business acumen, as the now-public documents only cover calendar years 2015-20.

They certainly contain a lot of useful information. After all, some information is better than none. And as reporters, accountants and other analysts review the documents, we uncover information that Trump has a bank account in China. for your returnsfor 2015, 2016, and 2017. His foreign policy assessments can now also correctly factor in the income Trump received. from more than a dozen countries during his years in the White House.

Then there’s Trump’s charitable donationsor lack thereof, with Trump do not make charitable contributions in 2020. There is also loan interest given to his daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr., meaning he may have passed the assets on to younger generations and minimized taxes on gifts.

At the very least, Friday’s statement confirms the details of the scope of your losses from calendar years 2015 to 2017, derived in part from real estate and other businesses that underperformed. In 2016 and 2017 he only paid $750 in taxes after losing approximately $32 million and $13 million respectively. In 2020, Trump paid no taxes.

In addition, the documents released on Friday Show Defying IRS rules on returns filed by presidents, the tax agency only began auditing Trump’s 2016 returns on April 3, 2019, more than two years after he took office. And it happened the same day that Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, asked the agency for information related to Trump’s tax returns.

It is true that the delay in the publication of the tax information was due to the battle that Trump waged against its publication. Although the Democrats who took over the House Ways and Means Committee in early 2019 mentioned that section of the federal tax code that states that the Treasury “shall provide” an individual’s tax returns if Congress makes a formal written request, Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to release the tax returns. of the president.

The court battle that followed was finally resolved only on November 22, when the Supreme Court gave the green light for the Ways and Means Committee to obtain Trump’s tax returns from the former president’s accounting firm. The ruling came just in time for House Democrats to release the documents, as Republicans recaptured a majority on Tuesday.

Ultimately, though, it’s up to House Democrats that the release of Trump’s tax documents on Friday was so limited. they only asked for a six-year term in the first place, according to his original 2019 letter to the IRS. As chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Neal was the only democrat he was allowed to request Trump’s state tax returns, a step he refused to take.

neal has taken progressive left heat to slowly walk the request. Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus at the time expressed their frustration and anger at the Democratic leadership for not moving faster to access and release the documents. Far-left lawmakers like Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) advocated an any-means-necessary approach to going after Trump, including immediate legal action to begin the impeachment process. Get your tax returns. “This is what I ran on,” he said Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), early in his first term. “There is a sense of urgency.”

Clearly, though, House Democrats didn’t want it to look like they were a fishing expedition dating back years before Trump was president. So they phrased their court case as Looking to the effectiveness of mandatory IRS audits of the tax returns of all sitting presidents. That gave their legal claims a clear legislative purpose. Going back further could have meant a different kind of protracted court fight. But it was the wrong decision, as the most revealing part of Trump’s financial history remains buried.

Trump’s tax release on Friday is no small feat, of course. And like the 2022 results in which voters rejected a number of election deniers, it is a sign that there is accountability for open government. But it’s more of an appetizer than a complete main course with just desserts.