Skip to comments.Democrats planning to examine Trumpís tax returns after the midterms
Posted on 09/29/2018 8:37:31 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
A nearly 100-year old statute allows the chairmen of Congress tax committees to look at anyones returns.
The years-old mystery of whats in President Donald Trumps tax returns will likely quickly unravel if Democrats win control of at least one chamber of Congress.
Democrats, especially in the House, are quietly planning on using an obscure law that will enable them to examine the presidents tax filings without his permission.
The nearly 100-year-old statute allows the chairmen of Congress tax committees to look at anyones returns, and Democrats say they intend to use that power to help answer a long list of questions about Trumps finances. Many also want to use it to make public confidential information about Trumps taxes that hes steadfastly refused to release.
Probably the approach would be to get all of it, review it and, depending on what that shows, release all or part of it, said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the No. 4 Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.
That could bring a swift end to the long-running battle over Trumps returns, while generating loads of fodder for what promises to be an array of investigations into the administration if Democrats win power.
Lawmakers are not doing much now to advertise their opportunity to seize Trumps returns ahead of the midterm elections, in part because some believe it will only rile his supporters.
But it could be one of the most immediate results of Democrats returning to power. Nonpartisan election experts say Democrats will likely win the House, with the Cook Political Report putting the chances at 75 percent. Theyre less likely to win the Senate, though even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has conceded thats possible.
It would be highly unusual for Congress to release confidential tax information, though not unprecedented.
As part of their Obama-era investigations into whether the IRS discriminated against conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, Republicans on both the Finance and Ways and Means committees agreed to release private tax information about the organizations. At the time, Democrats decried the move, though some now call it justification for unmasking Trumps returns.
Transparency advocates have long complained about Trump bucking a 40-year tradition of presidents producing their returns. His filings could answer questions about what he earns, how much he pays in taxes and whether he gives to charity.
It could also help answer broader, nagging questions like what sort of conflicts of interests are posed by his businesses, his ties to Russia and other foreign governments and how his family benefits from government actions.
There are legitimate oversight questions that can only be answered by having those documents, said Sen. Mark Warner, a tax writer and the top Democrat on the chambers intelligence committee.
Publicly releasing the returns would not come without some risk for Democrats, and not all lawmakers are convinced its a good idea, let alone legal.
It would be highly unusual, and surely incense the president. Some predict it would precipitate a legal war with the administration while scuttling any chance Democrats have of working with Trump on issues where they agree, like increasing infrastructure spending. Democrats might be accused of using their access to private tax information as a political weapon.
Some also wonder if it would eventually lead to lawmakers releasing confidential tax filings for other officials like the vice president or members of Congress or even people outside the government.
Insiders predict though that once the public becomes aware its possible for Democrats to unilaterally seize Trumps returns, they will face enormous political pressure to make them available. Others say once members of Congress receive copies of the returns, it would only be a matter of time before they are leaked to reporters.
The 1924 law stipulates the Treasury Department shall turn over any return or return information requested by the chairs of the tax committees or the head of Congresss nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation for them to review privately.
The law was passed amid concerns about corruption and conflicts of interest in the executive branch, such as those posed by then-Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellons business interests.
When this right was first developed, it was developed in an environment not dissimilar to now, said George Yin, a former JCT chief who now teaches at the University of Virginias law school.
The law has been so rarely used by Congress than even Democrats on the Senates tax committee said they were unaware Trumps returns could soon be within their grasp.
Wow, said Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democratic tax writer. The Finance committee can do that?
I didnt know that, but thats interesting.
Members of the Ways and Means committee have been feuding with Republicans over the issue for months, with the GOP repeatedly voting down Democrats bids to have the panel make use of the power.
Asked if they would force the issue if they win the House, Rep. Richard Neal, the panels top Democrat, said: Yeah that would be consistent with our beliefs.
Democrats have voted again and again to release those documents, he said.
Democrats say they would likely bring in experts to help them understand Trumps surely complicated finances. There has to be a thorough review of it and not just by members but by bringing in experts like CPAs to say, What does this show? said Doggett.
In rare instances, lawmakers have used the law to publicly release private tax information, despite normally stiff penalties for disclosure designed to safeguard taxpayer privacy. Improperly releasing protected information is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison one reason why tax returns rarely leak.
In 2014 and 2015, after extensive consultations with Congress legal, tax and ethics advisers, both tax committees voted to release protected information as part of their investigations into the IRSs Tea Party-targeting scandal. Lawmakers didnt release any individual persons returns, but the information disclosed enjoyed the same legal protections.
As Neal notes, the issue also came up during the Nixon administration.
. In 1973, an IRS employee leaked Nixons tax return showing he paid an unusually low tax rate (Nixons famous I am not a crook quote referred to his taxes, not the better-known Watergate scandal).
Seeking to quell the issue, Nixon asked JCT to audit his returns after questions emerged about the IRSs ability to adequately vet the presidents taxes. Four months later, JCT produced a 1,000-page report showing Nixon had underpaid his taxes over several years by almost $500,000, which amounted to half his net worth. Lawmakers agreed to make that report public, though it includes private tax information.
Said Neal: Theres a precedent for doing this.
Even some Republicans agree.
The short answer is yes, said one Republican involved in the IRS investigations.
Some outside observers warn outing Trumps filings could inaugurate a new era where presidents are not just expected to release their returns, but are compelled to produce them by the opposing party.
Weve never forced presidents to release their returns by saying, Do it or were going to do it for you. Weve always relied upon them to do it voluntarily," said Joe Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project at the nonpartisan Tax Analysts. We would be crossing a threshold.
Whats more, he said, theres no reason why other elected officials might not become subject to the same standard, or perhaps even private businesses or individual taxpayers.
Its not limited to the president they could release anybodys tax return, said Thorndike. Where does it end?
people’s plans vs God’s plans
OK fine. President Trump should then unseal Obola’s college transcripts.
Let’s check out the taxes of Feinstein and find out how she and her husband got so rich. Check into that chinese driver.
Trump gets audited every year so what’s the point
They’ve certainly got their priorities straight.
Any plans to help the country, Democrats? Or just more of this pathological nonsense?
I want to see all of THEIR tax returns....so we can find out how these folks arrive in DC as (most of them) middle class citizens, then...within a few years in DC....are magically worth MILLIONS!!
I also want to see exactly which Congresspersons used the Discretionary Slush Fund, to pay off their indiscretions...and, who received said payments.
Let’s see all of ^^that^^, first.
No platform or solutions that actually help American workers....just the same old, resist and fight nonsense, from the Dims.
-—Trump gets audited every year so whats the point——
Of course. The whole thing is stupid.
They act like his returns are in an Oval Office vault. The IRS has combed over his returns every year.
What do these gigantic weirdos think is in them? Payments for human sacrifices to Vladimir Putin? Just stahp.
If there were anything interesting in his returns, Lois Lerner would have leaked the info to the NY Slimes and the Bezos Post.
Well if we must have FBI investigations so deep they involve even teenage yearbook information, how about FBI investigations into every use of taxpayer funds in the Bimbo payoff slush fund in Congress.
I for one would love to see a list of names of those who used such services, and their pay back schedule.
LOL....that’s what I said in my post (#7) :-)
>>I also want to see exactly which Congresspersons used the Discretionary Slush Fund, to pay off their indiscretions...and, who received said payments.<<
You have to admit, it’s a good idea. :)
Have noticed that most high rollers in business circles and Congress critters, also, put their homes and real estate in their spouse’s name. In case there’s any claw backs. So there would also be a need to check family members and let them open their financial records.
So how do they bring in accountants? Of course the Chairperson would also release the return, which would be legal how?
If the law allows chairmen of the tax committees to look at the returns, why would they need to bring in experts, unless they are going to name them as committee chairmen?
They need to clean up their own back yard. . . .I am so sick of these reprobates . . .living on the backs of the taxpayers.
I haven’t looked at this law, but suspect that especially since it was enacted 100 years ago, it only allows the chairman to review the return, not receive a copy.
Information on copy machines: Oct 23, 2013 - Inventor Chester Carlson used static electricity created with a handkerchief, light and dry powder to make the first copy on Oct. 22, 1938. The copier didn’t get on to the market until 1959, more than 20 years later. When it did, the Xerox machine prompted a dramatic change in the workplace.
Section f: Disclosure to Committees of Congress
Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.
Any committee described in paragraph (1) or the Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation shall have the authority, acting directly, or by or through such examiners or agents as the chairman of such committee or such chief of staff may designate or appoint, to inspect returns and return information at such time and in such manner as may be determined by such chairman or chief of staff. Any return or return information obtained by or on behalf of such committee pursuant to the provisions of this subsection may be submitted by the committee to the Senate or the House of Representatives, or to both. The Joint Committee on Taxation may also submit such return or return information to any other committee described in paragraph (1), except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.
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