US President Donald Trump leaves Air Force One upon arrival at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on September 20, 2018. – Trump travels to Las Vegas for a campaign rally.
Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump’s income tax returns must be submitted to Congress by the IRS, the Justice Department said on Friday.
The DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel said the Democrat-led House Ways and Means Committee had filed a request with a legitimate legislative purpose to inspect Trump’s tax returns, with the stated aim of assessing how the IRS judges the presidents’ tax returns checks.
This 39-page statement is a reverse of a statement by the same bureau during the Trump administration that supported the IRS’s refusal to submit Trump’s Returns to the Committee.
Under federal law, the tax-related committees of Congress have a “broad right” to obtain taxpayer information from the Treasury Department, the parent company of the IRS, the new statement said.
“The statute at issue here is clear: ‘Upon written request’ from the chairman of one of the three tax committees of Congress, the secretary ‘sends’ the tax information requested to the committee,'” said Friday’s statement.
While these committees cannot force government executives to compel disclosure of this information, the opinion states that the committees should be denied tax returns “only in exceptional circumstances” and when the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose”.
The statement said the OLC “went astray” in 2019 by suggesting that the executive should “scrutinize the committee’s stated justifications for its demands” without the legislature’s due respect and deference to prove.
The ruling comes more than a year after the US Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s tax returns and other financial records had to be turned over to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. by his longtime accountants following a criminal investigation subpoena.
The Trump Organization and its longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg were charged by Vance on July 1 with crimes related to an alleged plan since 2005 to avoid paying taxes on the remuneration of the CFO and other top executives.
Trump broke decades of precedents as a presidential candidate and White House resident by refusing to voluntarily release his income tax returns.
He had claimed that his returns were being examined by the IRS to justify not disclosing the returns.
However, there is no ban on taxpayers from making their tax returns publicly available, even if those tax returns are audited.
The Justice Department opinion, coming under an Attorney General Merrick Garland selected by President Joe Biden, is likely to anger Trump.
A Trump spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, said in a statement, “As I have maintained for years, the committee’s case is very strong and the law is on our side.”
“I’m glad the Justice Department approves and we can move forward,” said Neal.
Neal’s committee sued the Treasury Department and the IRS in July 2019 for obtaining Trump’s tax returns after then Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the head of the tax office defied subpoenas demanding Trump’s persona and business returns for six years. Mnuchin argued at the time that the committee had no legitimate legislative purpose in finding the documents.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement: “Today the Biden administration won a rule of law victory as it respected the public interest by responding to Chairman Neal’s request for Donald’s tax returns Trump follows. “
“As speaker, on behalf of the House of Representatives, I applaud Chairman Neal for his dignified pursuit of the truth and the Justice Department of the Biden Administration for its respect for the law,” said Pelosi.
“Access to former President Trump’s tax returns is a national security issue,” she said. “The American people deserve to know the facts of their troubling conflicts of interest and the undermining of our security and democracy as President.”