Have you forgotten about President Donald Trump's tax returns? You know, the ones that were a hot topic of conversation during the 2016 presidential election but the public has yet to lay eyes on? Well, that might be changing. Trump's tax returns could be made public very soon, so get ready, people.
Typically, candidates trying to score their spot in the Oval Office make their tax returns public during the campaign, but Trump didn't jump on that tradition during his 2016 trail, nor has he offered them up since being elected — but now he might not have a choice. According to NPR, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts — the only member of Congress with the ability to get Trump's tax returns because the committee has the power to ask the Treasury Department for tax information — put in a formal request on April 3 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for six years of Trump's tax returns. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on Neal's request, but did not immediately hear back. The House Ways and Means Committee did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment.
In the past, Trump has claimed that the reason he's refused to hand over his tax returns is because he's under audit. During a news conference on Nov. 7, 2018, Trump said "Nobody turns over a [tax] return when it’s under audit," according to The Washington Post. But he later admitted that audit doesn't actually prevent him from releasing his returns. “I didn’t say it prevented me, I said lawyers will tell you not to do it,” said Trump. The White House did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on Trump's failure to make his tax returns public since 2016.
Neal used that same reasoning track when submitting his request Wednesday, according to TIME. In his letter, the chairman explained that the House Ways and Means Committee needed Trump's tax information in order to carry out their job of overseeing the IRS — including its policy of auditing sitting presidents, according to TIME. Neal wrote in a statement accompanying his letter to the IRS,
The IRS has a policy of auditing the tax returns of all sitting presidents and vice-presidents, yet little is known about the effectiveness of this program. On behalf of the American people, the Ways and Means Committee must determine if that policy is being followed, and, if so, whether these audits are conducted fully and appropriately. In order to fairly make that determination, we must obtain President Trump’s tax returns and review whether the IRS is carrying out its responsibilities.
Neal has given the IRS an April 10 deadline to hand over Trump's returns, but that doesn't mean they'll be made public by then, or that they will even be handed over. While taxpayer information is supposed to remain confidential under law, provisions do give Congress some access, according to NPR. The House Ways and Means Committee is allowed to request tax information. However, in March, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that if the Ways and Means Committee was to request Trump's tax information, they would "protect the president as [they] would protect any individual taxpayer under their rights," according to Reuters. The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's inquiry as to whether they plan to comply with Neal's April 10 deadline and hand over Trump's tax returns.
The point is that a formal request does not automatically equal Trump's tax returns being made public. The Treasury Department could stroll past the deadline, which could force House Democrats to sue them, according to Bloomberg. According to the publication, it could be years worth of court battles before any of Trump's tax information is out there for the world to see.
The moral of the story is, don't hold your breath for Trump's returns, but don't lose out hope, either.