August 2, 2021
In a written opinion, the DOJ ruled that, “the Secretary of the Treasury (“Secretary”) “shall furnish” such information to any of the three congressional tax committees—the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the Joint Committee on Taxation—“[u]pon written request from the chairman” of one of those committees.”
More specifically, the 39-page opinion stated, “We conclude that the [Treasury] Secretary must comply with the Ways and Means Committee’s June 16, 2021 request” for the tax returns and related tax information.
That decision reverses a 2019 opinion that the Treasury Department should not release the returns, which “rested upon the assertion that the Committee was disingenuous about its true objective in seeking President Trump’s tax information.”
According to Bloomberg Law, the Biden Administration has repeatedly delayed its response in court to a lawsuit seeking six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. Lawyers for Trump, who have intervened in the suit filed by lawmakers, said in January they’d almost certainly seek to block the handover in court, making it unlikely that Democrats will get access to the documents anytime soon.
The court case is part of a multi-pronged 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 Steve Mnuchin to hand over the tax records. Under Trump, the Justice Department fought subpoenas issued by the committee, which filed a lawsuit.
Other lawsuits over the president’s tax records involving his accountants and bankers reached the Supreme Court, which ruled that Congress could not 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 ten of the previous 15 years, the newspaper reported.
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).
Research contact: @bloomberglaw