Bloomberg Law
Oct. 31, 2022, 5:27 PM

Trump Asks Supreme Court to Block Disclosure of Tax Returns (1)

Zoe Tillman
Zoe Tillman
Bloomberg News

Former President Donald Trump has asked the US Supreme Court to block a congressional committee from getting years of his tax returns.

The emergency application to the justices on Monday comes after Trump repeatedly lost in the lower courts trying to stop the Internal Revenue Service from fulfilling a request from the House Ways and Means Committee for six years’ worth of his tax returns.

The IRS is set to turn over the tax returns to the committee on Nov. 3. Trump asked the Supreme Court to stop the agency from sharing the documents until he has a chance to formally petition the justices to take up the full case.

The case presents “important questions about the separation of powers that will affect every future President,” Trump’s lawyers argued. Allowing the House Ways and Means Committee to obtain a president’s tax returns would “render the office of the Presidency vulnerable to invasive information demands from political opponents in the legislative branch,” they added.

Trump’s lawyers also questioned the committee’s reasons for why it wanted his financial records, claiming the true purpose was to release Trump’s tax documents “to the public for the sake of exposure.” They argued that the judges who initially heard the case showed too much deference to the committee and ran afoul of a balancing test laid out earlier by the Supreme Court in a fight over Congress’ access to Trump’s financial records, Trump v. Mazars.

Trump’s request to stop the committee from immediately getting the documents will go to Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts, who handles emergency matters out of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, could act on Trump’s request by himself or circulate it to the other justices for a vote.

The case dates back to 2019, when the committee’s Democratic Chair Richard Neal asked the IRS for Trump’s tax returns, citing a 1924 law that allows the leaders of three tax committees in Congress to ask the US Treasury secretary for the returns of any taxpayer.

The Treasury Department refused to comply with the request while Trump was in office and the committee took the fight to court. Trump picked up the fight on his own when the department under the Biden administration said that it would turn over the documents.

Trump argued the committee lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose” in seeking his tax returns, a common claim he’s raised in challenging Congressional investigations and lawmaker demands for documents over the years. The committee said that it needed the returns to consider future legislation on issues like presidential compliance with tax rules, public accountability, and the IRS’ mandatory audit policy for presidents.

A federal district judge in Washington, DC, sided with the committee and Treasury Department in December, ordering Trump’s claims dismissed. A three-judge DC Circuit panel upheld that decision in August.

Trump asked the full DC Circuit to reconsider the panel’s ruling. The court denied that request in a brief order issued on Oct. 27; no judge noted a dissent. That order started a seven-day clock for Trump to ask the Supreme Court to step in before the IRS released the documents to the committee.

(Updated with more information from Trump’s emergency application.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Zoe Tillman in Washington at ztillman2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Tina Davis at tinadavis@bloomberg.net

Elizabeth Wasserman

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