Senate Finance Committee Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says that any effort by lawmakers to obtain and disclose President Donald Trump’s tax records ahead of the election could violate the U.S. tax code.
Grassley implied that any action by his panel to obtain Trump’s tax records now might be seen as more politically motivated than having any legislative purpose.
“For sure, somebody violated section 6103 of the tax code by violating the privacy of income tax,” Grassley said, referring to claims in a New York Times report that included Trump paying no income tax at all in 11 of the 18 years reviewed by paper reviewed, and only a small amount in 2016 and 2017.
When a reporter asked Grassley if he would obtain Trump’s tax returns, Grassley replied: “I checked and 6103 doesn’t allow tax returns to be used for political purposes.”
Section 6103 of the tax code outlines the confidentiality of tax records, saying that federal officers or employees may not share those returns or the information in them without the taxpayer’s permission.
However, the tax code provides some exceptions for Senate and House committees that have jurisdiction over taxes, such as Grassley’s. But even lawmakers’ access must be attached to lawmaking, not politics.
According to a Congressional Research Services 2019 report (pdf), Congress can access an individual’s tax records if “the inquiry must further a ‘legislative purpose’ and not otherwise breach relevant constitutional rights or privileges.”
Generally, Republicans have voiced suspicion about the allegations in the NY Times report published Sept. 27, which claimed Trump paid no federal income taxes for many years and that the president is being audited for claiming a $72.9 million tax refund.
“We don’t even know whether those facts are true.” Grassley continued, saying that much of what the NY Times has written about Trump has been “wrong or misleading.”
Trump has called the reporting on his tax returns “fake “and made up, stating he would share his tax information after the IRS audit is complete.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) on Sept. 28 called for an investigation into the newspaper’s report.
In a statement, Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said there’s the “prospect” of a felony crime in the leaking of the president’s tax information.
“While many critics question the article’s accuracy, equally troubling is the prospect that a felony crime was committed by releasing the private tax return information of an individual—in this case, the President’s,” Brady said on Sept. 28.
“To ensure every American is protected against the illegal release of their tax returns for political reasons, I am calling for an investigation of the source and to prosecute if the law was broken.”
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), another House Ways and Means Committee member, echoed Brady’s concerns in a Sept. 28 statement on Twitter.
“The unethical, perhaps illegal, leaking of any American’s tax returns is a stunning breach of public trust. That doesn’t change because it happened to @realDonaldTrump. The joint political hit piece between the New York Times and Democrats just weeks before an election shows no wrongdoing by @POTUS but leaves Americans wondering if their own private tax information can be weaponized against them for political gain,” he said.
“There must be an investigation into who turned over confidential tax records to the press to determine if the law was broken.”
Isabel Van Brugen contributed to this report.
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