Democrats set new deadline on Trump tax returns
House Democrats want Internal Revenue Service to hand over documents by April 13th
Democrats have called on the Internal Revenue Service to hand over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to legislators. Photograph: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
US congressional Democrats have set a new deadline of April 23rd for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to hand over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to legislators.
In an April 13th letter that appeared to move Democrats closer to a federal court battle against the Trump administration, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal warned the IRS that failure to comply with his request for six years of Mr Trump’s individual and business returns by April 23rd would be interpreted as a denial.
The Trump administration has already missed an initial April 10th deadline for providing the tax records, which Mr Neal first set when he made his request on April 3rd. Democrats based their request on the panel’s jurisdiction over IRS enforcement of the tax laws regarding US presidents.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that Mr Neal was “just picking arbitrary dates” in setting deadlines and said it was more important to get the decision “right” to ensure the IRS would not be “weaponized” in a political dispute.
“I do intend to follow the law. But I think these raise very, very complicated legal issues. I don’t think these are simple issues. There are constitutional issues,” he told reporters.
He could not say whether the Treasury, which oversees the IRS, would complete its review of Mr Neal’s request by April 23.
Mr Mnuchin, who has consulted with the White House and Department of Justice about Mr Trump’s tax returns, said earlier this week that Mr Neal’s request raised concerns about the scope of the committee’s authority, privacy protections for US taxpayers and the legislative purpose of lawmakers in seeking the documents.
He said he has not spoken personally to Attorney General William Barr about the request.
“Those concerns lack merit. Moreover, judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the committee’s request,” Mr Neal told IRS commissioner Charles Rettig in his letter.
“It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the committee or its reasonable determinations regarding its need for the requested tax returns and return information.
“Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,” Mr Neal wrote.
As Ways and Means chairman, Mr Neal is the only lawmaker in the House of Representatives authorised to request individual tax information under a federal law that says that the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” the data.
Despite the law’s clarity, Democrats have long acknowledged that the request, if denied, would mean a federal court battle that could ultimately be settled by the US Supreme Court.
Legal experts say lawmakers could vote to hold administration officials in contempt of Congress, which would provide a basis for the House to ask a federal judge to order the Treasury Department to comply.– Reuters