The US Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday failed to meet a congressional deadline for turning over President Donald Trump‘s tax returns to politicians in the United States, setting the stage for a court battle between Congress and the administration.
The outcome, which was widely expected, could prompt Democrats who control the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee to subpoena the documents, as an opening salvo in what many expect to be a lengthy court fight that might have to be settled by the US Supreme Court.
The tax return were initially requested to be handed over by April 10. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose department oversees the IRS, denied that request, citing concerns that the committee’s request was unconstitutional.
Earlier on Monday, the White House said Trump was unlikely to hand over his tax returns to politicians, despite the Tuesday deadline.
“As I understand it, the president’s pretty clear: Once he’s out of audit, he’ll think about doing it, but he’s not inclined to do so at this time,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox News in an interview.
Neal informed IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in a letter earlier this month that failure to comply with the deadline would be viewed as a denial.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney vowed that Trump’s tax returns would “never” be handed over to Democrats.
But Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said he intended to “follow the law” while pledging to keep the IRS from being “weaponised” for political gain.
As the Ways and Means chairman, Neal is the only politician in the House of Representatives authorised to request taxpayer information under a federal law that says the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” the data.
Democrats want Trump’s returns as part of their investigations into possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests, even as he serves the public as president.
Republicans have condemned the request as a political “fishing expedition” by Democrats.
Trump broke with a decades-old precedent by refusing to release his tax returns as a presidential candidate in 2016 or since being elected, saying he could not do so while his taxes were being audited.
But his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told a House panel in February that he does not believe Trump’s taxes are under audit. Cohen said the president feared that releasing his returns could lead to an audit and IRS tax penalties.