Will Trump’s Tax Returns Be His Downfall?

Former President Donald Trump is facing an array of legal troubles, including the possible release of his tax return documents to the public.

On Tuesday, the Democratic-led House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee voted to publicly release Trump’s tax return documents. The committee also published a summary report which showed that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) did not conduct an audit of the former president’s tax returns until they were asked to by the committee.

Michael McAuliffe, a former federal prosecutor and elected state attorney told Newsweek that “The release of a summary report of several years of Donald Trump’s tax returns and the likely release of the same years of redacted returns is another serious blow to Trump’s pursuit of a return to political power. It also represents a legal threat.”

Donald Trump's tax returns
US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One before departing Harlingen, Texas on January 12, 2021. Inset of a detail of a tax form. On Tuesday, December 20, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to release Trump’s tax return documents.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty; Getty

“However, it’s far too early to compare the risk to Trump of any criminal charges arising from his taxes to other potential charges he faces. Federal criminal tax cases are among the most difficult to bring in part because of the DOJ’s rigorous review of any potential criminal tax charges,” McAuliffe added.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Democratic Representative Don Beyer, a member of the Ways and Means Committee revealed that on April 3, 2019, the committee requested Trump’s tax returns from the IRS. Beyer’s tweet noted that the IRS “initiated its first audit of Donald Trump’s tax return” on the same day as the request.

During the course of his presidency, Trump declined to publicly release his tax returns, claiming that he was under audit by the IRS.

In addition to the documents relating to his tax returns, Trump is also facing other legal issues, including the recent criminal referrals made by the committee investigating the January 6 riots at the Capitol and the Department of Justice investigation into the classified documents that were found at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

Attorney Andrew Lieb told Newsweek that “Trump’s taxes should absolutely not be his biggest concern,” and suggested that the criminal referrals and DOJ investigation, which is being led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, should be among the former president’s biggest concerns.

“That said, the release of Trump’s tax returns will be juicy and play strongly against him in the news media and on late night television. And, you never know, could result in a nice audit, penalties, and charges for tax fraud,” Lieb said.

On the other hand, Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers told Newsweek that “Depending on what the returns show, tax evasion may ultimately be Trump’s biggest legal problem.”

Rahmani noted that it’s currently unclear if Special Counsel Jack Smith or Attorney General Merrick Garland will announce criminal charges against Trump for the January 6 riots and said, “Tax cases can be handled by administrative audit, civil lawsuits, or criminal prosecution, so regulators have many different tools at their disposal. If the returns are especially fraudulent, or if the fraud spans across multiple years, there will be a lot of pressure on the IRS, DOJ, or state agencies to act.”

In a statement sent to Newsweek following the vote by the House Ways and Means Committee, Trump’s spokesperson Steven Cheung said:

“This unprecedented leak by lameduck Democrats is proof they are playing a political game they are losing. If they are so hell-bent on releasing President Trump’s tax returns—which show he built a very successful business and created numerous lucrative assets throughout his career—they should release the tax returns of Nancy Pelosi and her weirdo husband Paul to see how much dirty money they have made from selling out America and jeopardizing our national security. Alongside their insider trading and shady stock deals, Congress needs to legitimately investigate their self-enriching financial scams…If this injustice can happen to President Trump, it can happen to all Americans without cause.”

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