Former US president Donald Trump announces a third run for president as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov 15, 2022. (REBECCA BLACKWELL / AP)
WASHINGTON – The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted on Thursday to require the US Internal Revenue Service to audit presidents' tax filings, after lawmakers concluded the agency did not properly examine Donald Trump's returns while he was in the White House.
The legislation, which passed on a largely party-line vote of 222 to 201, faces long odds of passing the Senate and becoming law in the final days that Democrats control both chambers of Congress. Trump's fellow Republicans are due to take control of the House in January.
However, it gives Democrats another chance to talk about Trump's tax returns, which he fought for years to keep private even though other presidential candidates have voluntarily disclosed them for decades.
Though the Internal Revenue Service is supposed to audit presidents' tax returns each year, it did not do so until Democrats pressed for action in 2019. The law would make that IRS policy a legal requirement
Tax filings released on Tuesday by a House panel, after a years-long battle, showed that he paid no income tax in 2020, his final full year in office, despite millions of dollars in earnings from his sprawling business empire.
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The House Ways and Means Committee also said the IRS did not properly examine his returns while he was in office.
Trump's tax records show that his income and tax liability fluctuated dramatically between 2015 and 2020, during his first presidential bid and subsequent term in office. They show that Trump and his wife Melanie minimized their tax liability through large deductions and losses and paid little or no income tax in several of those years.
Though the IRS is supposed to audit presidents' tax returns each year, it did not do so until Democrats pressed for action in 2019. The law would make that IRS policy a legal requirement.
The IRS assigned only one agent to those audits most of the time, the panel found, and did not examine many of the complex deductions claimed by Trump.
ALSO READ: Trump Organization found guilty of tax fraud scheme
The IRS has declined to comment.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat, said the legislation aimed to strengthen presidential oversight, not target Donald Trump
The legislation passed by the House would require the IRS to examine presidential tax returns each year and report on the status of those audits.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat, said the legislation aimed to strengthen presidential oversight, not target Trump. "This is not about a president; this is about the presidency going forward," he said on the House floor.
Republicans say the legislation would set a dangerous precedent by making it easier for lawmakers to release private citizens' tax information.
READ MORE: US appeals court rules against Trump in documents fight
"This will provide a dangerous new political weapon that invites political retribution," said Representative Kevin Brady, the panel's top Republican.