- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The government’s chief tax-law writer demanded Wednesday that the IRS turn over President Trump’s tax returns, saying Congress must see the secret documents in order to devise new laws governing presidential audits.

Rep. Richard E. Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he wanted to see Mr. Trump’s returns from 2013 to 2018, and set an April 10 deadline for turning them over.

Mr. Trump told reporters he’s “not inclined” to accede to the demand.

The president has repeatedly refuted calls to make his returns public, saying he’s facing an IRS audit and doesn’t want the information out.

He’s also bucked tradition in which every major party presidential nominee dating back decades released some tax returns.

Mr. Neal demanded the IRS not only reveal the tax returns, but also say whether Mr. Trump has faced an audit in any of those years, and what the outcome was.

The chairman also asked for the tax returns and audit records of eight other entities associated with Mr. Trump, including his revocable trust and his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Tax returns are supposed to be kept private under federal law. But the law does include a provision giving the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee authority to look at returns.

Once in the committee’s possession, the expectation on Capitol Hill is that the information will quickly find its way into the public sphere, possibly through a vote of the whole Ways and Means panel.

Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on Mr. Neal’s committee, urged the Treasury Department and the IRS to refuse the request.

“This particular request is an abuse of the tax-writing committees’ statutory authority, and violates the intent and safeguards of Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code as Congress intended,” he said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, said he doubts Mr. Mnuchin will be able to resist complying with Mr. Neal’s request.

“The law is crystal clear,” he said. “I expect the Treasury Department to comply in a timely manner.”

He said he wants the GOP chairman of the Finance Committee, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, to make the same request for the Senate.

Mr. Grassley has criticized requests for Mr. Trump’s tax returns as an effort to “weaponize” the tax law for political purposes. But he’s also said that if the House did it, he would make the same request to prevent any mischief on Democrats’ part.

On Wednesday a spokesperson for Mr. Grassley said he takes a dim view of Mr. Neal’s move.

“Those seeking an individual’s personal tax returns to exact political damage would be opening the door to future abuses of power and would poison the public trust in the ability of the IRS to keep personal information private. That’s an outcome every taxpayer and their elected representatives should want to avoid,” the spokesperson said.

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