December 6, 2022

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United States: Supreme Court orders Trump to turn over tax returns

The US Supreme Court has ruled that former President Donald Trump’s tax returns be turned over to a congressional committee, after a three-year legal battle. The Democratic-controlled House committee required six years of tax returns from Trump and some of his companies, from 2015 to 2020. Tuesday’s court order left no legal hurdles.

The Treasury Department refused to provide the documents during Trump’s presidency. But the Biden administration said the federal law is clear: The commission has the right to review any taxpayer’s tax return, including the president’s. Lower courts agreed, rejecting Trump’s claims that the commission only wanted the documents to be made public.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for the imminent turnover of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to a congressional committee after a three-year legal battle. The court denied, without comment, Trump’s request for an order that would have prevented the Treasury Department from turning over six years of tax returns for Trump and some of his companies to the Democratic-controlled House committee. This was Trump’s second defeat on the Supreme Court in as many months. In October, the court refused to intervene in the legal battle over the FBI’s search of Trump’s Florida properties, which had uncovered classified documents. In the dispute over his tax returns, the Treasury Department refused to provide the documents during Trump’s presidency.

But the Biden administration said federal law is clear that the commission has the right to review any taxpayer’s tax returns, including the president’s. Lower courts have agreed that the commission has broad power to obtain tax returns and have rejected Trump’s claims that the commission overreached and only wanted to release the documents.

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Chief Justice John Roberts imposed a standstill on November 1 to allow the court to hear legal issues raised by Trump’s lawyers and counterarguments from the administration and the House of Representatives. Just three weeks later, the court reversed Roberts’ order without any opposition.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The House said the order preventing the IRS from filing tax returns would leave lawmakers with “little or no time to complete their legislative work during this Congress, which is rapidly drawing to a close.”

Had Trump convinced the nation’s highest court to intervene, the committee could have run out of time, with Republicans poised to take control of the House of Representatives in January. If the matter is not resolved by that date, Republicans will almost certainly drop their demand for the documents. Trump’s tax returns were first requested by the House working group and its chair, Democrat Richard Neal of Massachusetts, in 2019 as part of an investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s audit program and the former president’s compliance with tax laws. A federal law says the Internal Revenue Service “must present” taxpayer returns to a handful of high-ranking lawmakers.

The Justice Department under the Trump administration has defended then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s decision not to file tax returns with Congress. Mnuchin said he could withhold the documents because he believes they are needed by Democrats for partisan reasons. A lawsuit ensued. After President Joe Biden took office, the committee renewed the request, requesting Trump’s tax returns and more information for the 2015-2020 period.

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The White House argued that the request was valid and that the Treasury Department had no choice but to comply. Then Trump tried to block the extradition in court. Cyrus Vance Jr., then the Manhattan District Attorney, obtained copies of Trump’s personal and business tax records as part of a criminal investigation. That case has also reached the Supreme Court, which has rejected Trump’s argument that he enjoys broad immunity as president.