The Internal Revenue Service should give a congressional committee access to former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, the Department of Justice said in a memo Friday, following years of legal battles over House Democrats’ subpoena of the records.
The DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel said the IRS must comply with the House Ways and Means Committee’s 2019 request for the former president’s tax information, citing a federal law instructing tax officials to release records to Congress.
DOJ lawyers argued the executive branch should only refuse to hand over tax records if the request from Congress “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” which doesn’t apply in this case because lawmakers said Trump‘s returns would help them conduct oversight of the IRS’s auditing process, which the DOJ views as a valid reason.
It’s unclear when or whether the IRS will hand over Trump’s taxes: A federal judge in January ordered the IRS to give Trump 72 hours’ notice before releasing his tax returns, and Trump’s lawyers — who intervened in a 2019 lawsuit from the House Ways and Means Committee over the returns — might fight to prevent their release.
The Trump-era DOJ had told the IRS not to release Trump’s tax records in 2019, arguing Congress’ stated justification for wanting the records was merely a pretext, and lawmakers actually planned on making the former president’s tax returns public. Friday’s memo reverses this ruling: Biden-era DOJ lawyers concluded that tax officials should only reject seemingly valid requests from Congress in “exceptional circumstances.”