The House Ways and Means Committee on Friday released six years of former President Donald Trump and his wife Melania's. The documents contain details that were not previously public, such as loans he gave to his children, income from book royalties and Melania's modeling, and how much of his presidential salary was given to charity.
Trump fought for years to prevent his returns from being released to the public, but theto the Democratic-led committee. The House Ways and Means Committee began the fight to get his taxes in 2019, when Democrats took control of Congress.
The returns, which span from 2015 to 2020, were redacted to remove personal information. Given Trump's years in business — specifically the real estate industry — the returns are complex and require a close read. They all appear to show very large pass-through losses from over 100 business entities, according to forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky.
Trump on Friday accused Democrats of having "unconstitutionally released" his returns.
He is the first president since Richard Nixon to not release his returns. Recent presidents released their tax returns voluntarily.
The House Ways and Means Committee released a report last week with their main findings, including that the IRS did not audit Trump for the first two years he was in office, until the committee asked about it. Ahead of Republicans taking control of Congress in January, the Democrat-led House of Representatives passed a bill to bolster the IRS mandatory presidential audit program last week.
Trump's new tax accountant prepared 2020 tax returns after Mazars cut ties with Trump
The former president's 2020 tax returns were prepared by a different accountant than Mazars, which dropped Trump as a client and disavowed years of financial statements it had prepared for him.
The returns for the last year of his presidency were prepared by Timothy Horan, of BKM Sowan Horan LLP, on Mar. 25, 2022, according to the documents released by the House Ways and Means Committee.
A month earlier, in February 2022, the accounting firm that for years prepared Trump and the Trump Organization's annual financial statements cut their ties with both and said a decade's worth of the reports "should no longer be relied upon." Mazars USA's decision came as the New York attorney general's office sought depositions of, as part of an ongoing fraud probe. The company said it could no longer stand by financial statements from June 30, 2011 to June 30, 2020.
Reporting by Graham Kates
Trump received interest from his adult children on loans he made to them
According to the former president's tax returns, he made loans to his adult children Ivanka, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, and reported receiving interest on those loans.
Trump declared a total of $50,715 in interest paid to him by his older children in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and $46,320 in 2020, according to his returns.
The staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation in their report last week said the interest income raised the "question of whether the loans were bona fide arm's length transactions, or whether the transfers were disguised gifts that could trigger gift tax and disallowance of interest deductions by the related borrowers."
Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant and certified fraud examiner, said it could be an estate planning technique.
It's the IRS' position that as long as it is a bona fide loan, it is respected as a loan, Dubinsky said. So, each year, Trump is able to decide to forgive a certain amount of the loan tax-free, i.e., not expect it to be repaid. Dubinsky says that means the taxpayer, Trump, owes no gift taxes on the forgiven amount, and the recipients, his children, do not pay income taxes on it.
The gift limit before the giver can be taxed was $15,000 per year per person, so Trump and the first lady could have forgiven up to a total of $30,000 in loans to a child annually without gift or income tax implications, Dubinsky said.
"It is an estate planning technique that is widely used by wealthy taxpayers," Dubinsky said. "The whole technique hinges on the taxpayer's intent when first making the loan in that they must intend for it to be a legally binding loan, and there can't be an agreement up front that the loan will be fully forgiven in the future."
See the tax return documents here
The redacted versions of Trump's tax returns were released as a series of PDF files by the House Ways and Means Committee. (The full documents are in the link to ATTACHMENT E at the bottom of the committee's press release).
Full individual returns and documentation:
Trump claimed he gave his salary as president away each year – what do his tax returns say?
Former President Trump announced each year of his presidency that he was giving away his salary. As a candidate in 2016, he told "60 Minutes" Lesley Stahl he'd justa year.
His tax returns don't specify that he did so, but in three of the years of his presidency, Trump declared charitable gifts "by cash or check" that exceeded his $400,000 annual salary as president. One year, the last year of his presidency, does not.
In 2017, he noted $1,860,963 in charitable contributions by cash or check. That year, the White House announced Trump's first salary donation, which wasfor his first three months in office, would go to the National Park Service to help pay for maintenance of the nation's battlefields.
One quarter's salary went to a Small Business Administration program to help veterans. Another quarter's pay went to fight the opioid crisis.
In 2018, Trump listed $500,150 in donations by cash or check, and in 2019, slightly more — $504,700.
In 2020, the number that appears on that contributions line is 0.
However, forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky says it's not possible to decipher from the tax returns whether or not Trump actually donated his salary.
"There is no backup schedule that breaks down where the $500,150 in charitable deductions claimed in 2018 went," Dubinsky told CBS News. "Typically, when the taxpayer claims a charitable deduction for that large amount of money, the tax preparer includes a detailed list of who the money went to. In Trumps 2018 tax return, for instance, there is no such schedule, so we really don't know if he was telling the truth when he said he donated his presidential salary to charity."
House Ways and Means member says Trump's taxes "underscore the fact that our tax laws are often inequitable, and that enforcement of them is often unjust"
Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, released a statement on Friday after the release of the returns saying the materials were "lawfully obtained" by the committee through the "IRS tax enforcement, including the presidential audit program." He also noted that the report released last week showed "this program was broken" and justified "our legislative purpose," which he said led to the passage by the House of a bill to bolster the IRS mandatory presidential audit program last week.
"Despite promising to release his tax returns, Donald Trump refused to do so, and abused the power of his office to block basic transparency on his finances and conflicts of interest which no president since Nixon has foregone," Beyer said. "Trump acted as though he had something to hide, a pattern consistent with the recent conviction of his family business for criminal tax fraud. As the public will now be able to see, Trump used questionable or poorly substantiated deductions and a number of other tax avoidance schemes as justification to pay little or no federal income tax in several of the years examined."
Beyer went on to say that these findings "underscore the fact that our tax laws are often inequitable, and that enforcement of them is often unjust."
Forensic analyst says Trump tax returns raises questions but he sees no major red flags
Forensic analyst Bruce Dubinksy says that while the thousands of pages of information will take days to comb through, so far he's seeing no major red flags — but there are questions about certain parts of Trump's finances, and it's clear he took advantage of legal tax loopholes.
What Trump paid to prepare his individual tax returns
Former President Donald Trump's returns show he made substantial payments to his now-former accountant to prepare his individual tax returns.
His 2015 return shows he paid $573,581 to accounting firm WeiserMazars LLP for "tax preparation fees" (On Jan. 1, 2017, WeiserMazars changed its name to Mazars USA)., who worked on Trump's personal and business taxes for four decades, is listed as the "paid preparer" on Trump's 1040 tax return that year.
In 2016, Trump's tax preparation fees more than doubled — he paid $1,295,385, also to WeiserMazars, and Bender again prepared his tax returns for that year.
Subsequent returns released by the House Ways and Means Committee don't reveal the tax preparer fees. This is likely because the tax law passed by Congress in 2017 and signed by Trump in the first year of his presidency eliminated the deduction for personal tax preparation. The fees can still be deducted from business tax expenses, but the line-item deduction can no longer be used by individual taxpayers.
Melania Trump received some modeling income in 2020
Former first lady Melania Trump earned $3,848 in 2020 in the "principal business" of modeling, according to the president and first lady's 2020 return. The return doesn't say what type of modeling work, although the money falls under "taxes and licenses."
The former president also received $133,173 in royalties in 2020, although the return doesn't specify the source. The former president in the past has received royalties related to his books, such as "Art of the Deal."
Trump says tax returns "show how proudly successful I have been"
In a statement sent by the Trump campaign, the former president said his returns show "how proudly successful I have been."
"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," the former president said. "The great USA divide will now grow far worse. The radical, left Democrats have weaponized everything, but remember, that is a dangerous two-way street! The 'Trump' tax returns once again 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."
Shortly after the release of his returns, a Trump fundraising committee sent out a fundraising email with the line, "Urgent: The Democrats unconstitutionally released President Trump's tax returns." Theof the returns to Congress.
The House Ways and Means Committee said it requested and ultimately obtained tax returns and related IRS audit materials from the Treasury Department for the tax years 2015 through 2020 for Donald J. Trump, the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, and the following corporate entities:
Lamington Farm Club, LLC d/b/a Trump National Golf Club-Bedminster
However, these representof Trump's sprawling business interests. The former president is financially linked to more than 400 separate entities, including trusts, limited liability corporations and partnerships, according to House researchers.
What tax pros will be looking for in Trump's returns
Trump's finances are known to be complex, and the documents being released Friday only represent a portion of his business empire over a six-year period, so the financial picture will not be comprehensive.
CBS MoneyWatch asked two tax experts — Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant and founder of Dubinsky Consulting, and E. Martin Davidoff, founder and managing partner of Davidoff Tax Law — some of the things they'd be looking for.
Among other things, the returns could reveal how much Trump continued to earn from the book and TV deals that helped make him a household name, and how much he donated to charity between 2015 and 2020.
The documents may also provide new insights into how his businesses took advantage of provisions in the tax code that benefit real estate developers.
Previously published excerpts of Trump's returns, and testimony at the Trump Organization's , have focused on periods in which he reported — allowing him to pay little or nothing in federal income taxes some years.
Mandatory audits not completed
The IRS policy manual requires the mandatory examination of the tax returns of the president and vice president each year. But according to the Ways and Means Committee's report,during the first two years of Trump's presidency, as Trump had claimed.
The committee said the former president's individual income tax returns filed in 2018, 2019, and 2020 were not examined until after he left office. Only the 2016 tax return was subject to a mandatory examination, and that audit was not completed while Trump was president.
The committee citedby Trump's legal team, accusing them of "failing to provide all the facts needed to resolve certain issues, and stating, in some cases, that they 'would likely have additional relevant facts to present in its protest or at appeal.'"
The long legal battle over Trump's tax returns
The Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee has been trying to get its hands on Trump's tax returns since shortly after Democrats regained control of the House in 2019.
On April 3, 2019, committee chairman Rep. Richard Neal sent a letter asking the IRS commissioner to hand over tax returns and other information of then-President Trump. About a month later, then-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the requested information would not be provided. Neal then issued a subpoena for those returns. When the Treasury Department refused to turn over the records, the committee filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to obtain the returns on July 2, 2019. The case was then stayed by the Court and, in the interim, Joe Biden was elected president. The Treasury Department then altered its stance and said the returns should be provided to the committee. Trump's representatives then attempted to block the disclosure to the committee and
legal proceedings continued until they reached the highest court in the land. Last month, the Supreme Court declined to block the Treasury Department from turning over Trump's taxes to the committee, allowing the House panel to finally obtain the records
Trump is the only president in recent history to not release at least some of his tax returns to the American people voluntarily. In 2020, The New York Times reported it had obtained 17 years' worth of Trump's returns and published of those findings.