Should Democrats win the majority in the House and/or Senate after the conclusion of the mid-term elections on Nov. 6, they could gain access to — and potentially make public — President Trump’s long-requested and steadfastly denied tax returns.
By employing a rarely-used provision of the Internal Revenue Code from 1924, the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are able to request anyone’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service in the course of conducting an investigation.
Should Democrats obtain the returns, it is expected that they would release them to the public.
“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 (D-Tx.).
Though rare, this would not be the first time that a president’s tax information has been made public. In 1973, the Joint Committee on Taxation released a 1,000 page report showing President Nixon had underpaid his taxes by nearly half a million dollars.
Congress created the provision in 1924 when it wanted to look into actions related to the Teapot Dome scandal, and also at the finances of then Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon as he continued to conduct personal business while in office, an action that Congress viewed as a potential conflict of interest, according to historian George Yin, Professor of Law and Taxation at the University of Virginia and former chief of staff of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
“We’ve never forced presidents to release their returns by saying, ‘Do it or we’re going to do it for you,” said Joe Thorndike, director of the Texas History Project at Tax Analysts, according to CNN. We’ve always relied upon them to do it voluntarily.”
“It’s not limited to the president – they could release anybody’s tax return,” said Thorndike. “Where does it end?”
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Rachel Lucio is a freelance writer in Austin, TX. She has been writing professionally since 1991, and has covered state, local and national government for more than a decade.