On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled that the House Committee on Ways and Means can review Donald Trump’s tax returns for 2015 to 2020.
The chair of the committee, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), initially requested that the Internal Revenue Service provide Trump’s tax returns to the committee. The Treasury Department declined Neal’s request at the time. The committee in 2021 renewed its request for Trump’s tax returns, after he had left office. Under the new administration, the Treasury Department then approved the committee’s request, which generated a lawsuit from Trump. The D.C. District Court dismissed Trump’s lawsuit in a December 2021 memorandum opinion that Trump immediately appealed.
In his appeal, Trump made four claims: that the committee’s request 1) lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose”; 2) that it violated the separation of powers; 3) that the statute permitting committee review was “facially unconstitutional”; and 4) that, in granting the committee with access to the records, the Treasury Department was violating Trump’s constitutional rights. The D.C. Circuit rejected these arguments.
The panel said that 1) the committee’s request indeed had a “legitimate legislative purpose”; 2) the burden placed on Trump and the executive branch by the request, though “concrete,” is “insufficient to require us to enjoin the…[r]equest”; 3) the law in question “can be properly applied in numerous circumstances,” including this one; and 4) the Treasury Department did not violate Trump’s constitutional rights, as Trump could not prove that the department would not have chosen to comply with the committee’s request “absent a retaliatory motive.”
The Ways and Means Committee celebrated the decision and said on Twitter that it expects to receive the requested returns and audit files “immediately.”
“With great patience, we followed the judicial process, and yet again, our position has been affirmed by the courts,” Neal said in a statement. “I’m pleased that this long-anticipated opinion makes clear the law is on our side. When we receive the returns, we will begin our oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the decision an “important victory for the rule of law.”
“Access to the former president’s tax returns is crucial to upholding the public interest, our national security and our Democracy,” she said in a statement. “We look forward to the IRS complying with this ruling and delivering the requested documents so that Ways and Means can begin its oversight responsibilities of the mandatory presidential audit program.”
Trump has up to one week to appeal the panel’s ruling.