But Mr. Welters’s math doesn’t add up: Even if Justice Thomas had made all the scheduled annual interest-only payments, that would only amount to a little over $180,000 — nearly $87,000 short of the purchase price. What’s more, the only proof of payment that Mr. Welters was able to provide to investigators was a copy of a single canceled check, dated December 2000, for $20,042 — the amount of a single interest payment.
Mr. Welters’s representatives told investigators that he believes there may have been additional interest payments — and, with less certainty, perhaps payment of some fraction of the principal, according to an aide to Mr. Wyden. But “none of the documents reviewed by committee staff indicated that Thomas ever made payments to Welters in excess of the annual interest on the loan,” the report said.
“No bank behaving in a commercially reasonable, arms-length manner would have given that loan in the first place,” said Mr. Hamersley, the tax expert. “And a bank doesn’t just say, ‘Oh gee, you’ve paid a lot in interest — we’re good, no need to pay back what you actually owe.’”
Mr. Welters, in a statement to The Times on Wednesday, said that because the loan was made so many years ago, “bank records — which I have sought — no longer exist. While not a tangible record, I continue to put stock in my contemporaneous belief.”
He added, “While I understand the attention given who this involves, the difference between what you’re comparing to and what happened here is that a friend lent another friend money. As anyone who has borrowed from or lent to family or friends knows, it’s simply not the same as a bank.”
That is a distinction the I.R.S. does not make. Assuming that the loan was entered into genuinely, and not intended from the start as an outright gift, the I.R.S. would treat the forgiven $267,230 — as well as any missed interest payments — as income to Justice Thomas, according to Mr. Hamersley and other experts.
Julie Tate contributed reporting.