For years, Donald Trump has tried all legal means to prevent the public from gaining access to his tax returns. He lost the fight. His documents are now public – and meaningful.

After years of legal wrangling, a US congressional committee has released tax documents belonging to former President Donald Trump. The Democratic-led House Treasury Committee posted thousands of pages of Trump’s tax documents from 2015 to 2020 on Friday. It shows, according to the panel, that Trump has paid little or no federal income tax for several years, despite boasting about his wealth. For years, Trump had used legal means to resist handing over the documents to the Finance Committee – and finally failed in the US Supreme Court a few weeks ago.

The committee had previously submitted two reports with a large amount of information from the tax documents and decided with the majority of Democrats to make the original documents accessible to the public, at least in part – or with the blacking out of sensitive information. That now followed. It’s a massive amount of data.

In the pre-summary reports that the committee published last week, detailed information from Trump’s tax returns for the years 2015 to 2020 were listed – i.e. from the period shortly before and throughout his term as president. In 2016, the year he was elected, and in 2017, his first year in the White House, Trump paid only $750 in federal income tax and claimed high losses. Then in 2018 he reported millions in profits and paid about $1 million in income tax. In the last year of office, 2020, Trump paid no income tax at all.

The “New York Times” had already reported in the middle of the election campaign before the 2020 presidential election that Trump paid only $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017. This was made possible by write-offs and credits, among other things because of high losses. Trump had denied this at the time, claiming he paid “millions”.

The finance committee recently complained: “Numerous reports revealed that the former president pursued aggressive tax strategies and decades-long tax avoidance strategies through the complex regulations of his personal and business finances.” Tax authority IRS did not check Trump properly. In the four years of his tenure, only one mandatory audit had been initiated and not a single one had been completed. Trump had always emphasized during his presidency that his tax documents were being checked – which is why he could not publish them.

Contrary to usual practice in the United States, real estate entrepreneur Trump did not make his tax returns public either as a presidential candidate or after moving into the White House. Critics therefore suspected that he had something to hide – also because he defended himself by legal means with all means against the disclosure of the documents.

The Finance Committee in the House of Representatives had been trying for years to get hold of the tax documents. During Trump’s administration, the Treasury Department initially stood in the way. Only in the administration of his Democratic successor Joe Biden last year did the Treasury Department finally instruct the IRS to hand over the documents to the committee. Trump fought back in court and tried various instances until the only option left was to go to the Supreme Court, where he ultimately failed in November.

This was a last-minute success for the committee: Since the Republicans won the majority in the House of Representatives in the congressional elections and will be in charge there from next week, the Democratic-led body had little time to do anything about the matter.

Trump had previously railed against the planned publication of the documents: “You can’t learn much from tax returns, but it’s illegal to publish them if they’re not yours,” he warned. The Republican announced in November that he intends to run again as a presidential candidate for his party in the 2024 election.