Trump Taxes: Three of President's Appointees Owe IRS up to $50,000 Each While Drawing Taxpayer-Funded Salaries

Trump taxes
Protesters take part in a "Tax March," calling on President Donald Trump to release his tax records, in New York on April 15. KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty

At least three of President Donald Trump's political appointees owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes, according to financial disclosures.

The debtors include Justin Clark, a deputy assistant to President Trump and the director of intergovernmental affairs, as well as a special assistant in the Department of Agriculture and an official working on community service across the country.

The debts were identified through a review of financial disclosures from Trump administration officials by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization.

It is not unusual for White House officials to be appointed while owing taxes to the IRS; a Washington Post investigation found that 41 employees in the Executive Office of the President under former President Barack Obama owed a combined $831,000 in back taxes in 2010.

But legal experts have called for political appointees to be held to account on paying their dues. "The Trump administration is proving to be no different than any of the others," said Marcus Owens, a partner at U.S. law firm Loeb & Loeb and ex-director of the exempt organizations division of the IRS. "For senior executives, particularly, there should be some requirement that they should stay current on their taxes."

Read more: Trump's refusal to release his tax returns is threatening his tax reform plan

The president himself did not report any IRS debt in a financial disclosure he made in June. But Trump has persistently refused to release his personal tax returns, claiming he is the subject of an ongoing IRS audit.

Trump's refusal to release his tax returns bucks a trend of U.S. presidential candidates doing so since the 1960s. It provoked widespread protests in April, with thousands gathering in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere to demand transparency from Trump.

Clark, whose office oversees liaison between the White House and state, county, local and tribal governments, owes up to $50,000 in back taxes. A financial disclosure filed by Clark does not suggest that he is on an IRS-approved payment plan to pay off his debts. Newsweek contacted the White House to request a comment from Clark but received no immediate reply. Clark earns a salary of $165,000 in his White House role, which is funded by taxpayers.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference to reveal his tax policy at Trump Tower in Manhattan on September 28, 2015. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Joe Alexander, a special assistant in the Department of Agriculture, and Deborah Cox-Roush, White House Liaison for the Corporation of National and Community Service, also reported owing up to $50,000 in back taxes, although their disclosures indicate that they are on payment plans.

Alexander is a GS-15 employee on the federal pay scale, meaning that he would expect to earn between $103,672 and $134,776. It is unclear how much Cox-Roush earns in her role.

Cox-Roush told the Center for Public Integrity that she expected to clear her federal debts by September and that the White House had not expressed any concern over her tax situation. "It's not been an issue, and I've done what the law allowed me to do," she said.

Newsweek contacted the Department of Agriculture for a comment from Alexander but received no immediate reply.

The investigation examined financial disclosures from more than 400 Trump administration officials, including almost 190 who admitted debts of some kind, such as student loans, mortgages, or credit card debt. Many posts within Trump's administration remain unfilled after more than six months in office.

A spokeswoman for the White House, Natalie Strom, told the Center for Public Integrity that owing the IRS money was "hardly a new practice."

The IRS advises people who owe taxes to set up payment plans as soon as possible to avoid interest and penalties.