In February 2016, as Donald Trump came under increasing pressure to release his tax returns, a longtime tax lawyer in Beverly Hills came to the defense of the candidate’s refusal to release any documents.
“Would any experienced tax lawyer representing Trump in an IRS audit advise him to publicly release his tax returns during the audit?” Charles Rettig, a name partner at Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, wrote in a contributed piece at the Forbes site IRS Watch.
Rettig was named Thursday as the Trump administration’s pick to run the IRS. If confirmed, he would be the first practicing tax attorney in at least 20 years to take the reins of the IRS. Recent commissioners had managerial experience but were not tax lawyers.
“Trump’s tax professionals likely have their hands full responding to numerous informal and formal detailed inquiries by the IRS ‘Wealth Squad’ audit team assigned to his case,” Rettig wrote in his 2016 post. “Neither the IRS team nor Trump’s tax team likely want the additional scrutiny brought on by a public disclosure during the examination.”
Trump, who often cited a pending audit, was the first president in modern times to decline to release any returns, or even partial returns. As Rettig pointed out in 2016, there was no legal impediment to Trump still releasing his returns. Indeed, the IRS said at the time there was no prohibition against an individual from releasing their own tax documents.
Rettig said in a statement: “If confirmed, I will do my utmost to improve taxpayer service and protect taxpayer’s rights under the law, and to insure the fair, efficient and impartial but rigorous enforcement of our tax code.”
Hochman Salkin partner Steven Toscher called Rettig the “person who can protect taxpayers’ rights, help improve taxpayer service, and help oversee the modernization of the ailing IRS information technology infrastructure.”
Rettig’s name has floated for weeks as a possible pick. A team from the McDermott Will & Emery tax practice called Rettig “a friend and mentor to many of us in the tax controversy bar over the years.”
Rettig fills a vacancy created by the retirement of John Koskinen, who left the IRS in November 2017 after enduring months of congressional attacks from Republicans who accused his agency of political bias.
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