Democrats Might Have Just Stumbled On A Way To Force Donald Trump To Release His Tax Returns

It's not to do with issuing a subpoena.

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters while hosting Slovak Republic Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini in the Oval Office at the White House May 03, 2019 in Washington, DC.
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It's not to do with issuing a subpoena.

There has been a longstanding hostility between Donald Trump and the Democrats over his tax returns. Ever since he first announced his presidential campaign, Trump and his lawyers have done everything they can to keep from releasing his tax returns. While in the beginning, the justification was an ongoing audit of his tax returns, Trump has been more blatant in his refusal to comply with the demands of the Democrats since becoming president.

According to experts, a 1924 law can force the president into releasing his tax returns, according to Politico. George K. Yin, Edwin S. Cohen Distinguished Professor of Law and Taxation at the University of Virginia School of Law, argues in a column that Democrats don’t need to subpoena Trump’s tax returns. Instead, Yin argues, the Democrats can invoke a 1924 law which makes it mandatory for the Treasury Department to release the returns of any taxpayer if demanded by the House Ways and Means Committee.

If Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin fails to comply with the wishes, as he has done so far by telling House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal that the Democrats’ reasoning for requesting Trump’s tax returns is contrived, the committee can sue the Treasury Department. Yin argues that while issuing a subpoena will need the Democrats to express an explicit purpose, suing Mnuchin for not complying with the 1924 law would not require them to state an explicit purpose, based on both the language and background of the law.

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However, since the law has never been interpreted by a court, Yin suggests that the Democrats take a precaution by providing a legitimate legislative purpose to request Trump’s tax information. The reason expressed by Neal in his letter to Mnuchin — “congressional oversight” — would meet the demands of the law, according to Yin. If the committee were to sue Mnuchin for not furnishing it with the required documents, the Treasury Department would likely lose in court, forcing Mnuchin to turn over Trump’s tax returns.

“If Congress wants to get those returns, its next move should be to sue Mnuchin based on his failure to comply with the 1924 law, rather than to seek the information through a subpoena,” Yin suggests, before going to explain his reasons for recommending this course of action. “At worst, a court will require Neal to have a legitimate legislative purpose—the same condition that applies to enforce a subpoena. But a court might well decide, based on the language and history of the 1924 law, that no purpose is needed at all. Congress has a strong case.”