The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied President Trump’s petition to protect his tax returns from being referred to a House committee.
The decision came in one line without opposition.
The court action has the effect of supporting a longstanding demand from Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) for six years of Trump’s tax returns. Neal acted under a statute that the Internal Revenue Service “shall provide” the committee chair with “any return or return information” he requested in writing.
The law does not allow for the public release of any tax returns, including those for a former president. Instead, the Ways and Means Committee is empowered to confidentially scrutinize returns to consider new or revised legislation.
But the long legal battle ends just as Democrats are about to lose control of the House of Representatives, raising doubts about whether Neal’s Republican successor will continue the effort.
Trump and his lawyers had already lost out to a Trump-appointed federal district judge and an appeals court panel with two Republican appointees.
Trump, who announced last week that he would run for president in 2024, has filed an emergency appeal asking judges to step in and block the IRS from turning over his tax records to the committee.
Trump’s legal team argued that doing so would “undermine the separation of powers” and leave all future presidents open to having their private tax returns exposed by political opponents in Congress.
“The previous Congress did not use its legislative power to obtain and disclose a president’s private financial information,” they said in their final appeal on November 14.
Moreover, they argued that time has run out for House Democrats.
The old Congress has only a few days left in its legislative calendar. Although a few days is enough time to expose the most sensitive documents of her main political rival, it is not enough time to properly study, draft, debate or pass legislation,” Trump’s legal team said.
Two years ago, the Supreme Court issued a split decision when it considered two cases involving Trump’s taxes.
At first, the judges cleared the way for New York prosecutors to obtain Trump’s proceeds, and those records played a role in the civil and criminal charges brought against his real estate organization.
In the second case, the court blocked subpoenas from three House committees that were seeking financial records from the then-president, his family, and his businesses.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. cited “separation of powers” and questioned whether House Democrats had legitimate legislative reasons for obtaining personal information from the CEO.
Trump’s attorneys cited that decision in Trump v. Mazar in their plea to prevent Neal from obtaining the now-former president’s records from the company that prepared his business taxes.
Since 1977, presidents have routinely released their tax returns, but Trump has refused to do so. And although the IRS has a policy of carefully scrutinizing the president’s returns, Neal said the committee had doubts about whether the agency looked into Trump’s remote properties.
“Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Trump owned a complex network of businesses, engaged in business activities internationally, and had a history of extensive tax evasion (as he bragged),” House attorneys told the court.
In 2019, Trump’s Treasury Secretary denied Neal’s request for Trump’s tax returns, arguing that it was more of a political stunt than an attempt in Congress to explore the need for new legislation.
After Trump was defeated in 2020, Neal submitted a new application, and the new Biden administration approved it.
Then Trump went to court asking to block the release.
US District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, dismissed his lawsuit in December, and the US Court of Appeals in Washington affirmed that decision in August by a vote of 3-0.
McFadden warned that his ruling does not allow for the public release of Trump’s taxes.
“Public disclosure of another person’s tax returns is a serious offense, and former committee chairmen have wisely resisted using the ‘law’ to publicize individuals’ returns,” he wrote.