• Mon. Feb 6th, 2023

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House Committee Obtains Access to Trump’s Tax Returns, Ending Long Fight

WASHINGTON — A House committee has gained access to six years of former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns after the Supreme Court last week paved the way for the release of records he had long sought to keep secret.

“Treasury has complied with last week’s court decision,” Lily Adams, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, said on Wednesday.

The move brought to an end a nearly four-year effort by Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee to obtain the returns. Breaking with modern precedent for major presidential candidates and sitting presidents, Mr. Trump had refused to make them public.

A spokesperson for the committee’s chairman who requested the returns, Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts, declined to comment. Lawyers for Mr. Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

It was unclear whether the Internal Revenue Service, an agency within the Treasury Department, had delivered physical copies of the returns to Capitol Hill, offered to make them available for Mr. Neal to read or taken some other step to furnish them to the committee.

Ms. Adams also gave no further details, saying only that the department had provided the records “consistent with the guidelines of 6103,” referring to the law that allows the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to request the returns.

At this stage, Section 6103 requires treating with confidentiality details about any requested returns that can be associated with a particular taxpayer. That same law, however, also allows the committee to later publish the returns in the Congressional Record, which would make them public. Mr. Neal has not announced whether he would do so.

The move came about a month before Republicans take control of the House. Had the Supreme Court sided with Mr. Trump, the new majority would almost certainly have dropped the request.

It is not clear whether the tax returns will contain major new revelations because in the intervening years, details about Mr. Trump’s finances have been disclosed by other means.

In February 2021, the Manhattan district attorney’s office obtained some of Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial data. The Trump Organization is now on trial in New York, where it is accused of tax fraud and other crimes. The New York state attorney general has sued Mr. Trump and three of his children, accusing them of lying to lenders and insurers by fraudulently overvaluing his assets.

The New York Times has also investigated Mr. Trump’s taxes, including obtaining tax-return data in 2020. Among its findings were that he paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that The Times examined and that he had reduced his tax bill with a $72.9 million tax refund that, as of 2020, was the subject of an audit by the I.R.S.

The fight over Mr. Trump’s taxes traces back to 2019, when Democrats took over the House and started trying to perform oversight. Mr. Trump vowed to stonewall “all” their subpoenas and pursued a strategy of using the slow pace of litigation to delay such efforts.

Among other efforts, Democrats obtained testimony from Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, that Mr. Trump had boasted about inflating the value of assets when applying for loans and undervaluing them when it helped lower his taxes. Mr. Neal also requested Mr. Trump’s tax returns, saying the committee was studying a program that audits presidents.

Mr. Trump and his allies said Democrats were engaged in a politically motivated fishing expedition, and his lawyers vowed to fight it “tooth and nail.” The Trump administration did not allow the Treasury Department to comply with Mr. Neal’s request.

The House filed a lawsuit that July seeking to enforce the request, but the lawsuit stalled before a Trump-appointed judge, Trevor N. McFadden. In late 2021, he finally ruled that the law was on the committee’s side — even as he warned that he thought it would be a bad idea for the House to publish the returns.

Mr. Trump continued to appeal. Last summer, a panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld Judge McFadden’s ruling.

In October, the full appeals court declined to rehear the matter, and the Supreme Court last week declined to get involved — lifting the block that had prevented the committee from obtaining the returns.