On Wednesday, a House committee chairman made a formal request to the IRS for President Trump to provide several years of his business and tax returns. President Trump dismissed the Democrats move, which has prompted the Republicans to warn the public that Democrats have “weaponized” tax law. When Trump was told that the Democrats were looking for six years of his tax returns, he responded by saying: “Is that all? Usually it’s 10. So I guess they’re giving up. We’re under audit, despite what people said, and we’re working that out — I’m always under audit, it seems, but I’ve been under audit for many years, because the numbers are big, and I guess when you have a name, you’re audited. But until such time as I’m not under audit, I would not be inclined to do that.”
Rep. Richard Neal from Massachusetts, who is at the head of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, made the request on Friday, which is the first time in 45 years that a demand for a sitting president’s tax information has been made. The request will surely cause a bit of legal chaos within the White House.
In a letter to the IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Neal asked for President Trump’s business and personal tax returns from 2013 until 2018. Neal explained to Rettig that the Democrats have a duty “to ensure that the Internal Revenue Service is enforcing the laws in a fair and impartial manner.”
“It is critical to ensure the accountability of our government and elected officials. To maintain trust in our democracy, the American people must be assured that their government is operating properly, as laws intend,” said Neal in a statement.
The congressional allies of President Trump have shown their disapproval for the request. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote to the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to condemn what he called the Democrats’ “abuse” of authority.
“Weaponizing our nation’s tax code by targeting political foes sets a dangerous precedent and weakens Americans’ privacy rights, As you know, by law all Americans have a fundamental right to the privacy of the personal information found in their tax returns. This particular request is an abuse of the tax-writing committees’ statutory authority, and violates the intent and safeguards of Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code as Congress intended,” said Brady. This provision to tax law typically prohibits disclosing personal tax information. Brady continued by saying: while “transparency in our government is enormously important,” the “privacy and freedom” of all taxpayers is paramount — and that Congress should pass new disclosure laws if it sees a problem. Violating the privacy rights of one taxpayer begins the process of eroding and threatening the privacy rights of all taxpayers.”
According to Fox News, a spokesperson for Chuck Grassley, chairman for Senate Finance Committee, said that the “ability of the chairman to request such information is intended to inform the legislative process, which is how it’s been used in the past, not to engage in a politically-motivated fishing expedition.”
The spokesperson continued by saying: Congress “passed section 6103 of the tax code to prevent that kind of abuse of power and to protect every taxpayer’s privacy. Those seeking an individual’s personal tax returns to exact political damage would be opening the door to future abuses of power and would poison the public trust in the ability of the IRS to keep personal information private. That’s an outcome every taxpayer and their elected representatives should want to avoid.”
Neal asked for the federal income tax returns of eight different entities, including Trump National Golf Club-Bedminster. Neal also wanted to know if the returns were ever under audit. He was also looking for all of Trump’s administrative files related to every return, including the affidavits.
Ron Wyden, a ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, responded to the request with a statement backing up his House colleague. “The law is crystal clear—the Treasury Department must provide tax returns to the Ways & Means and Finance Committees when the chairman requests them. I expect the Treasury Department to comply in a timely manner. Chairman Grassley should make the same request so Senate Finance Committee members are also able to access them,” said Wyden.