Close Close
ThinkAdvisor

Regulation and Compliance > Federal Regulation > IRS

Trump’s Tax Returns Can Be Released to Congress, DOJ Tells IRS

X
Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

What You Need to Know

  • That decision reverses a 2019 opinion that the Treasury Department shouldn’t release the returns.
  • The opinion by DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel opinion notes that it needs to give Trump 72-hours’ notice before the documents are released, which would give him time to make a legal request to stop or delay the transfer.
  • The court has granted the district attorney in Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, access to Trump’s tax records as part of a criminal investigation into the former president’s business dealings.

The Justice Department directed the Treasury Department to hand over former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to Congress, a move that means six years of Trump’s personal and business financial information could become public.

“We conclude that the Secretary must comply with the Ways and Means Committee’s June 16, 2021 request” for the tax returns and related tax information, the department’s Office of Legal Counsel said in a 39-page opinion posted on its website Friday.

That decision reverses a 2019 opinion that the Treasury Department shouldn’t release the returns, which “rested upon the assertion that the Committee was disingenuous about its true objective in seeking President Trump’s tax information.”

The move marks the latest and perhaps one of the final salvos in the years-long political standoff between Trump and Democratic leaders in Washington and New York over access to the former president’s tax returns. Reporting by the New York Times in 2020 suggested Trump paid no federal income taxes for years.

The Ways and Means Committee, which is controlled by Democrats, can choose to publish a report about Trump’s income and tax information based on the IRS returns, effectively making his tax returns public. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Friday that access to Trump’s tax returns “is a matter of national security.”

“The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president,” she said.

A Treasury spokeswoman referred questions to the Justice Department. Officials at the IRS and Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to questions about when the documents would be sent. Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The opinion by DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel opinion notes that it needs to give Trump 72-hours’ notice before the documents are released, which would give him time to make a legal request to stop or delay the transfer.

Lawyers for Trump, who have intervened in the suit filed by lawmakers, said in January that they’d almost certainly seek to block a handover in court, making it unlikely that Democrats will get access to the documents anytime soon.

The court case is part of a multipronged legal effort by House Democrats to gain access to the returns, after Trump became the first president in modern history not to release them to the public.

This case dates to 2019, when the House Ways and Means Committee sued to compel then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to hand over the tax records. Under Trump, the Justice Department fought subpoenas issued by the committee, which filed a lawsuit.

“It is about damn time. Our committee first sought Donald Trump’s tax returns on April 3, 2019 – 849 days ago.” Representative Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat who led efforts on the Ways and Means Committee to obtain the records, said in a statement. “I thank Attorney General Garland for doing the right thing and no longer using the government to shield a corrupt private citizen.”

Other lawsuits over the president’s tax records involving his accountants and bankers reached the Supreme Court, which ruled that Congress couldn’t compel disclosure, at least for the time being. Those cases were sent back to the lower courts to assess whether lawmakers should narrow the scope of the information they sought.

The court has granted the district attorney in Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, access to Trump’s tax records as part of a criminal investigation into the former president’s business dealings. It’s unclear whether Vance will make those documents public.

In September 2020, the New York Times cited previously undisclosed returns in reporting that Trump had claimed chronic losses for years as a way to avoid taxes. He paid $750 in federal income tax in 2016, and paid no taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, the newspaper reported.

Trump dismissed the Times’ reporting last year about his tax payments as “totally fake news.”

The case is Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives v. U.S. Department of the Treasury, 19-cv-1974, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

 (Photo: Vasilis Asvestas/Shutterstock.com)

Copyright 2021 Bloomberg. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.