On Friday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that former president Donald Trump’s tax returns have to be given to Congress by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department said in an opinion that the request made by Congress was a legitimate request for legislative purpose.
According to CNBC, who was the first agency to report the news, the opinion stated that the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee had invoked sufficient reasons in their request for tax information related to the former president. It also added that the Treasury Department had to hand over the information to Congress.
The opinion said that the tax committees of Congress had a broad right to get information from the Treasury Department. However, they couldn’t force the Executive Branch to provide this information without ensuring the constitutional requirement that the information that they were looking for would serve a “legitimate legislature purpose.”
The opinion noted that the Executive Branch had to give due weight to the status of Congress as a co-equal branch of government when assessing “whether such a request could serve such a purpose.”
It added that in a manner that is similar to the court system, Executive Branch officials should presume that the Legislative Branch officials were acting in good faith and to further legitimate objectives.
Former President Donald Trump refused to make public his tax returns when he was a presidential candidate as well as when he occupied the White House. He refused to release his tax returns, despite a clamor for it.
Richard Neal, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee said in a statement after the DOJ opinion was released that he had been saying “for years” that the committee had a strong case and the law was on their side. He said that he was happy that the DOJ had agreed and now the committee could move forward.
According to NBC News in July 2019, Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts had filed a lawsuit against the IRS and the Treasury Department in federal district court. He filed the suit to gain access to Trump’s tax returns. Incidentally Trump has been the only presidential candidate or President who did not voluntarily file his tax returns.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. had to knock on the doors of the Supreme Court to get Trump’s tax returns as well as other financial records. Trump’s advocates finally presented the returns and other financial records to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. The office has opened criminal investigations into the Trump Organization and some of its officials.