A government watchdog group has filed a complaint calling for an investigation into the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after the long-awaited release of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns revealed that the agency had failed to conduct a full presidential audit of Trump while he was in office.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wrote in a complaint filed this week that the report on Trump’s tax returns, released recently by the House Ways and Means Committee, shows that there may have been political corruption and abuse within the agency due to the administration’s influence, raising questions about how the decisions to give Trump a pass on mandatory audits were made.
“The revelations in the House Ways and Means Committee Report give rise to legitimate concerns about whether the mandatory audit program for presidential tax returns suffered from possible abuse, including undue political interference by Treasury and IRS officials, with the intent or effect of protecting former President Trump from the very type of scrutiny the program was intended to address,” the complaint says.
The report was released late last month and contains six years of Trump’s tax records, showing that the IRS left the mandatory presidential audit program “dormant, at best” under Trump and his IRS Commissioner, Charles Rettig, who personally profited from Trump properties while in office.
These mandatory audits were a post-Watergate initiative meant to help restore public confidence in tax enforcement, CREW wrote, and were put in place so that no government employee or agency would have to independently make the decision to audit a president.
The report revealed that the IRS only started one of its mandatory audits of Trump while he was in office; that audit, of Trump’s 2016 tax returns, didn’t begin until September of 2019 and was still incomplete by the time he left office, apparently due to the agency having extremely scant resources. Audits of Trump’s 2017, 2018 and 2019 tax returns didn’t begin until after he left office — and well after the 2020 election, despite the fact that the audit results could have provided critical information about his financial practices.
“Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump abused the federal government and its resources to protect himself and advance his own interests. It’s crucial to determine whether he did the same when it came to his taxes,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.
Experts have raised alarm over the IRS’s failure to audit Trump, saying that it warrants further investigation. Even though Republicans have been steadily defunding the IRS for years, the agency still should have had the resources to audit the president, many noted — especially a president who entered office having likely already broken numerous laws related to financial impropriety.
“Let us be perfectly clear: getting Donald Trump’s tax returns should not have been this hard, since every other president elected since Richard Nixon has publicly disclosed his tax returns, and the IRS not conducting audits of Trump’s taxes as required made the problem much worse,” Bookbinder said. “The IRS’s failure to do its job betrayed the trust of the American people who deserve accountability and transparency at the highest levels of government.”
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