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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Posts
    101

    Default Can the Ways and Means Committee Get Anybody's Tax Returns Without a Court Order

    As most, if not all of you know, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee has requested President Trump's tax returns. I am not here to have a debate on the situation, but....

    If the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee wants the President's tax returns dating back to when he was a private citizen, is it just a matter of the chairman making the request, and the IRS handing them over? Or does there have to be a court order first?

    And what about a private citizen? If the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee wants my tax return(s), does the IRS just hand them over upon request?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    19,200

    Default Re: Can the Ways and Means Committee Get Hold of Anyone's Tax Returns W/O a Court Ord

    Not anyone. Congress has power to investigate things that come under their concern. Oft, these are things pertaining to legislation, but since they are given the power to bring impeachment, investigations leading to that are fair game. The "congressional subpoena" is a relative modern invention but is cemented in a Supreme Court decision from 1970's.

    I'm not sure why you think a "court order" is required by Congress or anybody else. In most cases a "warrant" (that's distinct from a court order) for searches. However, the governments own data doesn't require a search warrant. There's enacted legislation (The Privacy Act) that limits the accessibility of citizens' records maintained by the government. Of course, when Congress enacted that, they left a nice exception for themselves with regard to compliance.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    7,400

    Default Re: Can the Ways and Means Committee Get Hold of Anyone's Tax Returns W/O a Court Ord

    Quote Quoting riffwraith
    View Post
    If the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee wants the President's tax returns dating back to when he was a private citizen, is it just a matter of the chairman making the request, and the IRS handing them over? Or does there have to be a court order first?

    And what about a private citizen? If the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee wants my tax return(s), does the IRS just hand them over upon request?
    The rules relating to disclosure of tax returns by the IRS is governed by Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 6103. The general rule is that the IRS may not disclose taxpayer return information to persons other than the taxpayer, but then there are detailed exceptions to that allowing for disclosures to certain committees in Congress, to other federal law enforcement agencies, to state tax agencies, etc. As it applies to your question, IRC 6103(f)(1) requires that the IRS must provide tax return information to the House Ways and Means Committee or the Senate Finance Committee upon the written request of the chairperson of the Committee. That means any return, including your return or mine. It is not limited to returns of presidents or other high level officials. But there is a catch. The rule provides that when the return information to be provided is for an identifiable individual (as opposed to, say, aggregated statistics of a group of returns) the IRS may only provide that information to the Committee when sitting in a closed session.

    And that is why the Democrats are not using this method to get at the president's returns. If they do that, none of the information they obtain may be released to the public. Indeed, the public might not even know the returns had been requested and reviewed by the Congress. That does not suit the political aims of the Democrats here. They are hoping for two things. First, they want to score a win in just getting the president to cough up the the returns — they want show the public that they made Trump give in and bow to their demand for the returns. Second, they are hoping there is something in those returns that they can use to some political advantage, especially in the upcoming presidential election. But to achieve those goals, they need the president to voluntarily turn the returns over and allow their release to the public.


    Quote Quoting flyingron
    View Post
    Not anyone.
    Actually, yes, the Committee can get the federal tax return of anyone without a court order, as I described above.

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