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Correspondents say that, despite the lack of detail in the 2005 documents, the leak is still significant because so little is known about Donald Trump’s tax affairs and the new information could increase pressure on him to release more.
The two pages show that President Trump paid $5.3 million in federal income tax and an extra $31 million in what is called alternative minimum tax (AMT).
Image source Flickr
AMT was set up nearly 50 years ago to stop the wealthiest people from using deductions and loopholes to avoid paying taxes. Donald Trump has called for it to be abolished.
The $38 million bill was an effective tax rate of about 24%, higher than the average American citizen would pay but below the 27.4% averaged by higher-earning taxpayers.
Although leaking federal tax returns is a criminal offence, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow argued that the network was exercising its right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution to publish information in the public interest.
Journalist David Cay Johnston, interviewed on MSNBC, said he had received the documents in the post from an anonymous source.
In a statement issued before the broadcast, the White House said: “You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago.”
The statement said President Trump had a responsibility to pay no more tax than was legally required.
Every presidential candidate since 1976 has released their tax returns although there is no legal requirement to do so.
During last year’s election campaign, Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump in a head-to-head debate of paying no federal income tax.
In October 2016, the New York Times revealed parts of Donald Trump’s 1995 tax returns that showed losses of $916 million. The newspaper said this could have affected his returns for up to 18 subsequent years, allowing him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes.
The forms disclosed on March 14 do not say whether the $103 million write-down was connected to the 1995 losses.
According to a US government watchdog, 1,580 IRS workers evaded taxes over a decade, including some who were responsible for enforcing the nation’s tax laws.
This means about 160 workers a year out of a workforce of 85,000. So while were saving receipts, researching tax credits, and using every possible tax calculator available, the tax man himself is avoiding the one thing he’s hired to do.
According to a new report by the IRS’ inspector general, most were not fired, even though a 1998 law calls for terminations when the tax agency’s workers willfully don’t pay their taxes. The penalty must be waived by the IRS commissioner.
Among their offenses: improperly claiming dependents, repeated failure to file timely tax returns, and claiming a tax credit for first-time homebuyers when the worker didn’t buy a house.
Some of the employees received promotions, raises and bonuses after they were caught willfully not paying their taxes, the report said.
“Given its critical role in federal tax administration, the IRS must ensure that its employees comply with the tax law in order to maintain the public’s confidence,” said J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration.
“Willful violation of the law by IRS employees should not be taken lightly.”
The report looked at workers from 2004 through 2013, before IRS Commissioner John Koskinen started.
The IRS said more than 99% of its employees pay their taxes on time, the highest compliance rate of any major federal agency. Historically, about 8% of the general public owes back taxes.
The agency said those who weren’t fired faced strong disciplinary actions, including suspensions and reprimands.
In 2014, the agency started denying performance bonuses to employees who willfully fail to pay their taxes.
The agency also said it will become more transparent about why the commissioner chooses not to terminate certain employees who willfully don’t pay their taxes.
Twice a year the IRS uses a screening process to identify employees who might owe back taxes. Tax information is confidential by law so the agency’s ability to check compliance makes it unique among federal agencies.
Over the 10-year period, the IRS found 18,300 cases in which IRS employees owed back taxes but the delinquency was not willful, the report said. The IRS found 1,580 cases in which employees willfully did not pay their taxes.
Among the willful violators, the IRS fired 25% and an additional 14% retired or resigned, the report said. Sixty-one percent received a lesser penalty.
Hours before government was due to shut down at midnight on Thursday, December 11, the House has passed the US $1.1 trillion budget.
The Republican measure was passed by 219 votes to 206 after President Barack Obama had urged Democrats to support the budget.
The new budget will fund most of the government until September 2015, but some areas will only receive short-term funding.
Republicans won control of both House and Senate in elections in November.
A relieved John Boehner, the Republicans’ House leader, said: “Thank you and Merry Christmas.”
Fifty-seven Democrats voted for the bill, but others were angry about Barack Obama’s call for support of the Republican bill, with Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi saying she was “enormously disappointed” at the president’s position.
The Republicans strongly oppose Barack Obama’s immigration reforms and so the bill only funds the Department of Homeland Security until February.
Republicans hope that when the new Congress meets at the start of next year, they can force changes to the president’s immigration plans.
The budget bill must now be passed by the Senate and sent to the president to sign into law.
A two-day extension of government funding was approved by the Senate on Thursday to give it time to pass the main budget.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said that his chamber would begin looking at the legislation on December 12.
The bill funds the government at the same levels that were negotiated last December.
It also adds emergency funding requested by Barack Obama, including funds to fight Ebola in West Africa and money for US air strikes against militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
A number of Democrats were unhappy at what they saw as unnecessary concessions made to Republicans in order to pass the bill.
“We don’t like lobbying that is being done by the president or anybody else that allows us to… give a big gift to Wall Street,” Democrat congresswoman Maxine Waters said.
For their part, several Republicans argued that the deal did not go far enough in putting curbs on President Barack Obama’s plan to grant work visas to millions of workers who had entered the US illegally.
The US government entered a partial shutdown during October 2013, after the two houses of Congress failed to agree a new budget.
That shutdown left more than 700,000 employees on unpaid leave and closed national parks, tourist sites and government websites.
The 1,600-page bill also includes a number of provisions intended to gain votes from both parties:
increasing the amount an individual person can contribute to a national political party from $32,400 to $324,000
blocking the District of Columbia from using its own funds to set up regulatory systems for marijuana legalization
measures that would significantly weaken financial regulations in the Dodd-Frank law, including restrictions on derivatives trading
blocking certain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations
cuts in the budgets of the EPA and the IRS
increases in the budget for Wall Street regulation agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission.[youtube OeKSPt3DIrE 650]
A current Internal Revenue Service employee revealed during a closed-door interview with congressional staffers that the agency is still subjecting Tea Party groups with a level of scrutiny that it doesn’t apply to other applicants for nonprofit tax exempt status.
The news comes three months after the IRS was forced to admit it targeted conservative organizations with special screening based on ideological suggestive words in their names.
The employee, whose job entails evaluating new tax-exempt applications, told House Ways and Means Committee investigators that “secondary screening” is still employed inside the IRS because no one has told rank and file workers how to handle applications from Tea partiers.
Ways and Means chairman Rep. Dave Camp told the Washington Examiner that the continued targeting program is “outrageous”.
A committee aide added that “in plain English, the IRS is still targeting tea party cases”.
In an August 1 transcript released Thursday by Camp’s staff, a Ways and Mean committee staffer asked the newest IRS witness: “How do you analyze advocacy cases. If, for example, Tea Party of Arkansas came in today, how would you handle it?”
The IRS has faced angry opposition from conservatives since it admitted in May that it subjected tea party groups to more intense screening than it applied to other applicants for tax-exempt status
After clarifying that a previous “Be On The Lookout” list no longer targeted groups based on their names alone, the agent said: “If a political advocacy case came in today, I would give it – or talk about it to my manager because right now we really don’t have any direction or we haven’t had any for the last month and a half.”
The interviewer asked what would happen: “If today … a case from a tea party group came in to your desk, you reviewed the file and there was no evidence of political activity, would you potentially approve that case? Is that something you would do?”
“At this point,” the agent replied, “I would send it to secondary screening, political advocacy … based on my current manager’s direction.”
In an August 6 Washington Post op-ed, Camp and House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa wrote: “The White House and its allies have engaged in a flailing effort to put this scandal behind them.”
But the new revelations will practically guarantee that the IRS scandal will continue to consume committee hearing time when Congress returns from its month-long recess.
“When the scandal was first revealed,” wrote Darrell Issa, “the president promised the American people that the administration would <<hold the responsible parties accountable>>. Yet upon the direction of the president, new IRS acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel ordered a 30-day review, upon which Werfel claimed the agency found no “evidence of intentional wrongdoing by anyone in the IRS.”
The White House, they claimed, “has vacillated between indifference and acknowledgment of inappropriate IRS behavior”.
“Consider this: On the same day President Obama bemoaned the <<phony scandals>> plaguing his administration, his chief spokesman, Jay Carney, allowed that <<we need to get to the bottom of what happened at the IRS>>. Which is it?”
Obama administration knew since June 2012 about an investigation into complaints from conservative tea party groups that they were being harassed by IRS, and the probe was ongoing at the height of the presidential race, a Treasury inspector general revealed Friday.
J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, testified alongside ousted IRS head Steven T. Miller, who did little to subdue Republican outrage during hours of intense congressional questioning.
Both defiant and apologetic, Steven T. Miller acknowledged agency mistakes in targeting tea party groups for special scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, but he insisted that agents broke no laws and that there was no effort to cover up their actions.
Steven T. Miller only stoked the criticism of many Republicans, who are assailing the administration on a sudden spate of other controversies, as well, even as some Democrats tried to contain the political damage.
“I don’t know that I got any answers from you today,” Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., told Steven T. Miller.
“I am more concerned today than I was before.”
At one point in the day’s hearing, Treasury Inspector General Russell George said he had told the department’s general counsel about his investigation on June 4, 2012, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly thereafter”.
But, I.G. Russell George cautioned, those discussions were “not to inform them of the results of the audit. It was to inform them of the fact that we were conducting the audit”.
After the hearing, inspector general spokeswoman Karen Kraushaar said Russell George “informed Department of Treasury officials that we were looking into the IRS’ handling of applications for tax-exempt status, partly due to allegations raised by conservative organizations”.
Karen Kraushaar said the disclosure was part of a routine briefing about the office’s activities.
The Treasury Department issued a statement Friday saying officials first became aware of the actual results of the investigation in March of this year, when they were provided a draft of Russell George’s report, a standard practice.
Russell George’s disclosure came before the House Ways and Means Committee in the first of several congressional hearings on the matter. He was joined by Steven T. Miller, who spoke publicly about the controversy for the first time.
Steven T. Miller apologized for the actions of agents who singled out conservative political groups for additional, often burdensome scrutiny.
“First and foremost, as acting commissioner, I want to apologize on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service for the mistakes that we made and the poor service we provided,” he told the committee.
“The affected organizations and the American public deserve better.”
But members on both sides of the aisle were furious, and castigated him for the mismanagement and political gamesmanship the IRS engaged in on his watch.
Texas Republican congressman Kevin Brady had the harshest criticism for Steven T. Miller.
“Is this still America?” he asked him.
“Is this government so drunk on power that it would turn its full force, its full might, to harass, and intimidate, and threaten an average American who only wants her voice, their voices heard?”
“The American public deserves better,” Steven T. Miller agreed. But both he and Russell George insisted that no IRS employees engaged in political witch-hunting.
Russell George oversaw the year-long internal probe that ended in a report released Wednesday. It concluded that the agency used “inappropriate criteria” in selecting tax-exemption applications for closer scrutiny, but did not find any wrongdoing on the part of senior-level IRS officials.
Steven T. Miller concurred with that finding, blaming the problem instead on “foolish mistakes” while affirming that partisanship “has no place at the IRS”. He also insisted he did not deceive Congress, though he repeatedly failed to reveal the controversy last year when he was asked about it by lawmakers – even after he had been briefed.
“I did not mislead Congress or the American people,” Steven T. Miller said.
President Barack Obama announced his removal on Wednesday, as a scandal unfolded involving the IRS targeting hundreds of right-wing organizations for intense scrutiny based on keywords like “tea party” or “patriots” in their names.
He told committee members that before the episode became public, he had no contact with the Treasury Department, the White House or Barack Obama’s re-election campaign about targeting conservative groups.
“Absolutely not,” Steven T. Miller said.
He surprised committee members when he said “it is absolutely not illegal” for IRS agents to single out conservative groups for additional scrutiny.
“Please don’t get me wrong,” he added.
“It should not happen.”
Russell George, the inspector general, backed up Steven T. Miller’s assertion when he said the yearlong investigation did not uncover illegal activity.
“It is not illegal, but it was inappropriate,” Russell George said of targeting conservative groups.
Russell George’s report concluded that an IRS office in Cincinnati, which screened applications for the tax exemptions, improperly singled out tea party and other conservative groups for tougher treatment. The report says the practice began in March 2010 and lasted in various forms until May 2012.
J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, testified alongside ousted IRS head Steven T. Miller
Agents did not flag similar progressive or liberal labels, though some liberal groups did receive additional scrutiny because their applications were singled out for other reasons, the report said.
Steven T. Miller wrote to IRS employees, however, that he was leaving at the end of his scheduled term in early June.
Ultimately, he conceded on Friday, he agreed to step down because responsibility for the IRS’s activities “stops at my desk”.
Committee chair Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, stared down Steven T. Miller, saying that “this systemic abuse cannot be fixed with just one resignation”.
“And as much as I expect more people need to go, the reality is this is not a personnel problem,” Dave Camp maintained.
“This is a problem of the IRS being too large, too powerful, too intrusive and too abusive of honest, hardworking taxpayers.”
Sander Levin, the panel’s ranking Democrat, said the IRS and its employees “have completely failed the American people” by “singling out organizations for review based on their name or political views, rather than their activity”.
“All of us are angry about this on behalf of the nation,” the left-leaning Michigan congressman said.
Lois Lerner is the civil servant who heads up the IRS division in charge of evaluating charitable and other nonprofit organizations. Sander Levin called for her head.
“Ms. Lerner should be relieved of her duties,” he said.
“We must seek the truth, not political gain.”
In what Steven T. Miller called “a prepared Q-and-A” on May 10, Lois Lerner told an American Bar Association conference about a pending IRS Inspector General report examining the targeting of conservative groups inside the IRS’s Exempt Organizations section.
That admission started the media feeding frenzy that has spiraled into a full-blown scandal. The acknowledgement that Lois Lerner went to the event with the intention of publicly disclosing the IG report’s existence raised eyebrows on the congressional panel.
Illinois Republican Rep. Peter Roskam quizzed Steven T. Miller about a phone conversation he said he had with Lois Lerner about the planned disclosure, which Miller said was intended to coincide with a disclosure to Congress.
He agreed with Peter Roskam, however, that Congress wasn’t told at the same time a question was “planted” at the bar association conference.
“We called to try to get on the calendar of the Ways and Means Committee,” Steven T. Miller said.
“You called to try to get on the calendar?” Peter Roskam asked, incredulous.
“Is that all you’ve got?”
“It’s the truth,” Steven T. Miller responded.
Under questioning from California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, Steven T. Miller said he would not commit to giving Congress his notes, phone records, and other evidence of conversations with Lois Lerner.
Devin Nunes reminded him that Congress could, and might, subpoena them.
Lois Lerner’s superior, Sarah Hall Ingram, was the most senior political appointee in charge of exempt organizations reviews during the years when the IRS was targeting right-wing groups. This year the Obama administration has elevated her to a position of authority over the tax implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature health care overhaul.
Steven T. Miller called her “a superb civil servant”, and said he promoted her to her current position.
In a flurry of press releases, broadcast statements and tweets, conservatives have lashed out at Ingram, suggesting a level of corruption on her part that could compromise the fair and impartial implementation of Obamacare.
Sarah Hall Ingram “allowed and possibly encouraged the outrageous and discriminatory tactics toward Tea Party Patriots based on political ideology, clearly violating her supposedly unbiased office”, said Jenny Beth Martin, the group’s national coordinator.
“We … do not trust anyone who was involved in targeting tea party groups to administer the Affordable Health Care Act in a fair and equal manner,” Jenny Beth Martin added.
“We certainly do not trust Sarah Hall Ingram to be anywhere near our incredibly sensitive health care decisions. It appears the administration has rewarded her for allowing the discriminatory actions rather than disciplining her. She must be terminated or resign immediately for her disgraceful actions.”
In a stunning flashback moment, Louisiana Republican Rep. Charles Boustany played a video clip showing former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testifying before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight in March 2012.
“Can you give us assurances that the IRS is not targeting particular groups based on political leanings?” Charles Boustany, the subcommittee’s chairman, asked Douglas Shulman then.
“There’s absolutely no targeting,” the then-commissioner responded in 2012.
“This is the kind of back-and-forth that happens when people apply for 501(c)(4) status.”
Asked Friday if this was a lie, Steven T. Miller said: “It was incorrect.”
“But whether or not it was untruthful,” he continued, without reaching a conclusion.
“Why did you mislead Congress and the American people on this?” Charles Boustany asked.
“Congressman, I did not mislead Congress or the American people,” Steven T. Miller responded.
Washington Democrat Jim McDermott, a reliable liberal partisan, acknowledged that “the IRS stiff-armed us, basically, at best”, in past testimony, but defended the agency’s behavior.
Tax “examiners took a shortcut”, in the face of a flood of new applications for tax-exempt status, he said, “which they deeply regret”.
Still, he conceded that it was wrong to treat groups differently because of their political positions.
“As much as I dislike the right,” he said, “I think it’s wrong to be un-evenhanded in government application” of laws and regulations.
Paul Ryan, the Republicans’ vice presidential nominee in 2012, slammed Steven T. Miller for what he said was less-than-truthful testimony when he appeared before a subcommittee last year. Although he had been briefed by then about the problems with tax-exempt applications from tea party groups, he said nothing.
Steven T. Miller hid material facts from Congress, Paul Ryan said.
“How can we conclude that you did not mislead this committee?”
Steven T. Miller fired back: “I stand by my answers,” he said, adding that the word “<<harassment>> implies political motivation” on the part of IRS employees.
“There was no political motivation,” he insisted.
Washington Republican Rep. Dave Reichert picked up that thread when it was his turn to ask questions.
“Do you not believe it’s your job to provide us with the information that you knew?” he demanded.
“You’re a law-enforcement agency, for crying out loud.”
“I answered all questions truthfully,” Steven T. Miller responded.
“You’re not going to cooperate,” said Dave Reichert, dismissing him and moving on to question Russell George.
The hearing is the first in what will likely be a series of inquisitions from Congress about the IRS scandal, just one of the three hanging over the Obama administration.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold its own hearing on May 22, taking testimony from Lois Lerner, former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, and Treasury Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin.
New York Democrat Charles Rangel took issue with the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” ruling, which he said created an environment that resulted in the IRS’s malfeasance.
The underlying problem, he said, was a resulting law “almost written for abuse”, as it prohibits Congress from interfering with 501(c)(4) groups’ political spending.
The Citizens United Ruling is generally credited with creating a flood of applications for tax-exempt status with the IRS, including hundreds from conservative groups hoping to capitalize on their newfound power to influence national politics with untraceable dollars.
“This is not <<Democrat or Republican>>,” Charles Rangel said.
“It relates to the integrity of the government.”
“We’re on the same side as far as determining how this happened.”
Charles Rangel told Steven T. Miller that he wanted the “tens of thousands of IRS employees [to] have the stigma of corruption taken away from them”.
“Whether this is criminal activity or a mistake,” the New York Democrat said.
Dionne Warwick has filed for bankruptcy in the US after amounting debts of almost $10 million in taxes since 1991.
Dionne Warwick’s liabilities include nearly $7 million owed to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from 1991 to 1999 and more than $3 million in business taxes owed to the state of California, where she lives.
The singer has sold more than 100 million records since the 1960s.
Dionne Warwick’s publicist said she had been the victim of poor financial management.
Dionne Warwick has filed for bankruptcy in the US after amounting debts of almost $10 million in taxes since 1991
He added that the 72-year-old singer had paid back the actual amount of the taxes but not penalties and interest that had accumulated over the years.
In documents filed in her home state of New Jersey this month, Dionne Warwick listed about $21,000 in monthly income and a similar amount in monthly expenses.
Her publicist said she had “repeatedly attempted to offer re-payment plans and proposals to the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board for taxes owed”.
Dionne Warwick, cousin of the late Whitney Houston, won her first of five Grammy awards in 1968 with Do You Know The Way To San Jose?.
The second award came two years later, for the album I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.
Dionne Warwick has sold more than 100 million records and has enjoyed more charts hits than almost any other female singer.
Last March, Dionne Warwick celebrated 50 years in show business with a special event at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
To mark the anniversary Dionne Warwick released Now, an album featuring new versions of some of her most famous songs.