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House Democratic chairman formally requests 6 years of Trump's tax returns

Democrats formally request Trump's taxes

The Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee sent a formal request to the IRS for six years of President Trump's tax returns, a long-awaited move by Democrats to obtain the records using their House majority.

Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, whose committee has jurisdiction over tax laws, issued a statement Wednesday announcing the request, which he has been considering for months.

"Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, has a duty to conduct oversight of departments and officials," Neal said. "The Ways and Means Committee in particular has a responsibility to conduct oversight of our voluntary Federal tax system and determine how Americans — including those elected to our highest office — are complying with those laws."

Richard Neal
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thu., March 14, 2019. AP

At a meeting at the White House, Mr. Trump said he is under audit and "would not be inclined" to release his returns until the audit is completed. Being under audit does not preclude individuals from releasing their tax returns.

"Is that all? Usually it's 10, so I guess they're giving up," Mr. Trump said when a reporter told him Democrats were requesting six years of returns. "I've been under audit for many years, because the numbers are big and, I guess, when you have a name, you're audited."

Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, called the request "an abuse of the tax-writing committees' statutory authority."

"Weaponizing our nation's tax code by targeting political foes sets a dangerous precedent and weakens Americans' privacy rights," Brady wrote to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, whose department includes the IRS. "As you know, by law all Americans have a fundamental right to the privacy of the personal information found in their tax returns."

Trump reacts to Democrats' request for tax returns

In a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Neal said the returns are necessary for Congress to determine whether the IRS is properly enforcing tax laws "in a fair and impartial manner."

Neal requested Mr. Trump's individual tax returns for the years 2013 to 2018, as well as a statement stating whether the return is or was subject to an audit and, if so, the reasons why. He also requested the tax returns for other Trump-related entities, including a trust in his name and several corporations.

Neal gave the IRS a deadline of April 10 to produce the documents. Under the law, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and designated staff are allowed to view the returns but not release them to the public.

This is the first time Neal's committee has formally requested the returns after wrestling with the decision since Democrats won the House. Neal and other top Democrats were hoping to balance cooperation with the White House on issues like infrastructure with the demands of Democrats eager to take action against the president. 

Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.

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