The Internal Revenue Service would be legally mandated to annually audit the president and publish the results under legislation passed Thursday by the House, the most immediate outcome from Democrats’ investigation into President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
The bill, which passed on a 222-201 vote, would require the IRS to audit the president’s personal and business tax returns within 90 days of being filed. The legislation also requires the agency to publish those tax returns and documents from the audit.
The Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee released the results of their multiyear probe into Trump’s tax records earlier this week, finding that the IRS was not following its internal policy of annually auditing the president. As a result the panel’s chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced a bill to make that policy a legal requirement.
“After years of stonewalling and litigation ending at the Supreme Court, the Committee found that, for all practical purposes, the mandatory audit program was dormant. It wasn’t just functioning poorly — it was not functioning at all,” Neal said on the House floor Thursday. “In fact, the IRS did not even start its mandatory audits until receiving the letter I sent requesting the President’s tax returns.”
Representative Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, called the bill a “charade” and “a flimsy excuse” to target Trump, adding that Republicans would work with Democrats on other ways to strengthen the presidential audit program.
The legislation is the first congressional response to House Democrat’s findings that the IRS had failed to complete audits of Trump, despite dozens of potential triggers in his returns. Among the items a report from the Joint Committee on Taxation says should merit scrutiny are tens of millions of dollars in deductions claimed by Trump and his companies.
The legislation also would serve as a backstop if presidential candidates choose not to voluntarily release their tax information. For decades, candidates have released recent tax forms during the campaign, but Trump broke with that custom.
The bill has almost no chance of becoming law this year as both chambers aim to finish their work before the holiday. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has pledged to take up the bill next year, but it would also require House passage again because it would be after the start of the new Congress. It’s unclear if Republicans, which regain a majority in the chamber next year, would prioritize this bill.