Opinion: IRS has questions to answer about Trump’s taxes

The biggest story to emerge from the recent release of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns wasn’t really what was in the fine print of his tax documents, but rather, why did the IRS give Trump preferential treatment while he was in office?

There were certainly some interesting details in the six years of documents released by Democrats on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, which gave hints about how much foreign business Trump’s companies were doing while he was in the White House.

They also raised questions about whether he really donated his full presidential salary in 2020. And the review showed Trump wasn’t under an IRS audit as he often publicly claimed.

But after three years of court fights — and a lot of political grandstanding — the release of the details quickly fizzled as a big news story.

Republicans ignored most of the details and simply said the move by Democrats was all about attacking Trump.

“The Democrats illegally releasing President Trump’s personal tax records is a new low in the biggest political persecution of any President in history,” said U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome.

U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson echoed those sentiments, saying the Trump tax return release should ‘terrify every taxpayer.’

Ferguson is right — but for a different reason. Taxpayers should be terrified about why the IRS did not apply its rules to Trump.

IRS regulations require the tax agency to audit a sitting President’s tax returns every year.

The IRS did that with Barack Obama and Joe Biden. But when it came to Trump, the feds never reviewed his tax returns from any year that he was President.

In fact, the only reason the IRS even looked at Trump’s 2015 tax return — from before his time in office — was because Democrats asked about presidential audit procedures.

“The IRS was asleep at the wheel,” said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Why did Trump get favorable treatment from the IRS that regular taxpayers would not? It certainly deserves an answer.

But it might also be important to get a better answer to the question of why Donald Trump fought so hard –— and so long — to keep his tax returns private.

Trump took the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before finally losing.

And yet, once the documents were made public, the story of his taxes disappeared quickly from the headlines.

Maybe the moral of the story for political candidates is simple — just release your taxes. Keeping them hidden only creates more attention.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com