Donald Trump's Tax Returns Could Raise Some Sticky Legal Questions
Over the past few weeks, everyone has been wondering if President Donald Trump's tax returns will be made public. Even though Congress has openly stated that they plan to make the president's returns public, it might be easier said than done. So, can Congress subpoena Trump's tax returns? It's complicated.
According to Vox, there's a chance that Trump's tax returns could be subpoenaed, but it'll be a complicated procedure. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) protects the confidentiality of tax returns, and generally prohibits that information from being shared unless required by law. However, Congress can subpoena those returns from the IRS as long as there is a "legitimate legislative purpose" in doing so, which is where Trump's team reportedly think Congress falls short. In order to obtain Trump's tax returns, Congress must present a strong reason why they need the information, which Democrats claim the reason is to see how well the IRS examines Trump's returns. However, Republicans have reportedly claimed that House Democrats are only seeking Trump's returns as a way to embarrass the president in front of the public, according to Politico.
Also, there's a chance that if Congress were to subpoena Trump's tax returns, Trump could contest the request in court.
Despite any obstacles, the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal has already given the IRS an April 23 deadline to turn over Trump's personal tax returns, and if the IRS doesn't comply, it's likely Neal will subpoena them. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on Neal asking for Trump's tax returns, but did not hear back in time for publication.
Presidents are not required by law to release their tax returns. However, seeing as Trump is the only major party presidential nominee not to do so in United States history, there are some red flags there.
Trump's taxes have also been a subject of discussion from his former attorney Michael Cohen, who testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 27 about his experience working with Trump.
During the 2016 presidential election, Trump claimed that he would not release his tax returns because he was apparently under audit, but Cohen has another story. On Feb. 27, Cohen told the House Judiciary Committee that the "real reason" Trump refuses to hand over the returns is because he would allegedly face penalties if his taxes were viewed by experts. Elite Daily reached out to Cohen's team and the White House for comment on Cohen's statement, but did not hear back in time for publication. While testifying, Cohen reportedly said,
What he didn’t want was to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then he’ll end up in an audit and he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on.
In the hearing, the House Judiciary Committee asked Cohen whether he believed Trump was actually under audit in 2016. Cohen stated he wasn't sure, but presumed he wasn't. Cohen also stated in the hearing that Trump has allegedly changed his net worth in order to decrease his real-estate taxes, but has also inflated them in order to appear on Forbes' "World's Richest" lists. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on Cohen's claim at the time, but did not hear back.
"Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes," Cohen claimed.
In addition to his personal tax returns, Politico reports that House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings has also stated that he plans to subpoena a decade worth of data from an accounting firm that is tied to Trump's financial matters. So, it looks like all of Trump's finances might be under the microscope sometime soon.
At this point, it's up in the air whether Trump's tax returns will be turned over to Congress anytime soon. I guess we'll just have to sit back and wait.