In a “formal request” that President Trump and his supporters say amounts to the Democrats “weaponizing” tax law, House Democrats have demanded the president turn over six years of his tax returns.
According to Fox News, when told by a reporter at the White House that Democrats wanted six years of his tax returns, Trump replied: “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 I’m not under audit, I would not be inclined to do that.”
The request was made on Wednesday, April 3, by Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, who heads the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. It is the first such demand for a sitting president’s tax information in 45 years. The move sets up what will likely be a tense legal showdown with the White House.
Neal requested in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, asking for Trump’s personal and business returns for 2013 through 2018. Neal told Rettig that 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,” Neal said in a statement. “To maintain trust in our democracy, the American people must be assured that their government is operating properly, as laws intend.”
Trump Supporters in Congress Cry Foul
The president’s congressional allies registered immediate and fierce disapproval. The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, R-Texas, wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to decry what he called Democrats’ “abuse” of their 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,” Brady said in the letter. “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.”
Section 6103 of tax law generally prohibits the disclosure of personal tax information.
Brady added that 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, Brady asserted, “begins the process of eroding and threatening the privacy rights of all taxpayers.”
Neal specifically demanded the federal income tax returns from eight entities, including
Trump National Golf Club-Bedminster, as well as statements specifying whether the returns were ever under audit. Neal also demanded all administrative files, including affidavits, related to each return.
A spokesperson for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Fox News 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.”