The IRS should be investigated for repeatedly failing to conduct full and timely audits of former president Donald Trump’s tax returns for the years 2015 to 2019, according to a complaint sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Americans deserve to know whether political allies of the former president allowed him to shield possible conflicts of interest and escape accountability.
Like his predecessors as president, Trump’s tax returns were subject to a mandatory tax audit. A recent report from the House Ways and Means Committee revealed that Trump was not audited for years until the day the Committee requested information on the audits in 2019, and even then, audits were understaffed and moved at a glacial pace. It is imperative for the Inspector General to examine whether Treasury and IRS officials interfered with the mandatory audit program for presidential tax returns in hopes of protecting Trump or if these failures were due to sheer negligence. Charles Rettig, Trump’s handpicked IRS commissioner, made hundreds of thousands of dollars from Trump-branded properties while refusing to release his returns and failing to audit them.
“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,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “The Inspector General should take all necessary steps to examine why the IRS did not fairly apply our nation’s tax laws and agency rules to then-President Trump and figure out who was responsible.”
The IRS’s mandatory audit program for presidential tax returns was put into place in 1977 in response to Richard Nixon’s use of questionable tax deductions. Donald Trump claimed that he could not release his tax returns because he was under audit, but the IRS had previously made clear that audits don’t prevent the release of tax returns. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is responsible for overseeing Treasury activities that involve the IRS and the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, such as investigating fraud, waste and abuse. It also has access to tax information and is the right office to determine whether Trump’s former Treasury and IRS political appointees or other staff interfered with Trump’s audit process.
“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,” said Bookbinder. “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.”