- Certain committees in Congress have the authority to request President Trump’s tax returns for review and can then vote to make them public.
- Republicans have so far blocked efforts by Democrats to utilize the procedural tool.
- If Democrats retake the House majority, they can move forward with getting Trump’s tax returns with newfound power in the Ways and Means Committee.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has not publicly released his tax returns and has no plans on ever doing so. But whether he wants to might not matter at all if Democrats take back the majority in the House of Representatives.
Three committees in Congress already have the authority to take a peek at Trump’s — or any president’s — tax returns in a closed session: The Senate Finance Committee, the Joint Committee on Taxation, and the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Through section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, those three committees can request 10 years of Trump’s tax documents from the Secretary of the Treasury. They can then vote to make the returns public.
While the JCT is a nonpartisan committee operated by experienced economists and the Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate are looking relatively slim, the House looks more likely to be changing hands come January, according to recent polling.
Taking back the House would allow Democrats, using their newfound control of the Ways and Means Committee, to review the tax returns and decide whether or not to release them.
Democrats have been demanding Trump’s tax returns since he became president
Since Trump became president, House Democrats have made dozens of different attempts to request the tax returns, through forced votes, discharge petitions, amendments, and letters to various agencies and officials.
Shortly after Trump became president, Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to request the tax returns from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
At the time, Ways and Means Chairman and GOP Rep. Kevin Brady called it an abuse of power that Democrats were only invoking “for obvious political purposes.”
Rep. Bill Pascrell, one of the senior Democrats on the committee, had introduced a procedural measure to get the tax returns, reasons for which he had outlined in a February 2017 letter to Brady.
“President Trump is now governing while also owning a business with international investments,” Pascrell wrote. “The Constitution faces unprecedented threats due to this arrangement. I believe the powerful Ways and Means Committee has the responsibility to use that power to ensure proper oversight of the executive branch by requesting a review of President Trump’s tax returns and moving towards a formal release of these documents to the public.”
The issue has not disappeared, either.
Lawmakers and critics called for the release of his tax returns after Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing concerns he may have business dealings in Russia.
And after a New York Times investigation into Trump’s personal finances and rise through New York City real estate development exposed “dubious tax schemes” and examples of “fraud,” the calls for obtaining and reviewing his tax returns returned.
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee requested the Republican Chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, to utilize the law that allows them to get Trump’s tax returns, citing the Times investigation.
Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, asked Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig to investigate the reports of fraud and tax schemes in a letter.
“These media reports represent serious and credible allegations of potentially illegal tax fraud, based on extensive documentation,” he wrote. “It is not clear whether the statute of limitations has expired in all cases. It is imperative that IRS fully investigate these allegations and prosecute any violations to the fullest extent of the law.”
Reviewing and releasing Trump’s tax returns would likely anger Trump, who has scoffed at calls for him to make them public. The White House has maintained the tax documents have been kept secret because they are under audit, while Trump himself has suggested their release is a non-issue.
“I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College!” Trump wrote on Twitter in April of 2017. “Now Tax Returns are brought up again?”
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