Top House Democrat steps up demand for Trump's tax returns

I owed the IRS after making this tax mistake in college

US federal law clearly details that when the chairman of the US House Ways and Means Committee provides a request in writing for any US citizen's tax returns - even a sitting US president - the US Treasury, now headed by Trump appointee Steve Mnuchin, "shall furnish" the documents.

But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that 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.

Whether or not the IRS has to release President Donald Trump's tax returns remains "far from clear", according to at least one tax policy expert.

The administration has already failed to comply with a 10 April deadline.

"I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding my request and the authority fo the Committee", wrote Neal. "The Committee's request raises serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of Congressional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative objective, and the constitutional rights of American citizens". Neal is relying on a 1920s-era law that says the IRS "shall furnish" any tax return requested by the chairmen of key House and Senate committees.

"If you want to run for vice president or president of the United States, hey, what's wrong with providing your tax returns for the past five years?"

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"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", Neal wrote.

The issue appears sure to end up in federal court.

Republicans have called the request as an overreach of confidential taxpayer data. Dubbed the "blue wall" before they unexpectedly tipped to Trump, they may have supplanted Florida and OH as the nation's premier presidential battlegrounds. Neal's request for the returns of a sitting president is unprecedented, and legal experts say its success or failure may depend on a court ruling about the committee's legislative goal for seeking the documents.

The letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig is the latest exchange in a tug of war over Trump's returns, which would give lawmakers far greater insight into the president's business dealings and potential conflicts of interest as it exercises its oversight role.

The president has long maintained he will not release his returns while under audit. Neal has argued that the committee needs Trump's tax information in order to conduct oversight of the Presidential audit program, a program that is not enshrined in law, but instead has become a routine procedure at the IRS that when a new President comes into office. Being under audit is no legal bar to anyone releasing his or her returns.

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