TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, March 6, 2017

Yin:  Congressional Authority To Obtain And Release Tax Returns

Trump Tax ReturnsFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  George K. Yin (Virginia), Congressional Authority to Obtain And Release Tax Returns, 154 Tax Notes 1013 (Feb. 20, 2017):

President Trump’s continuing refusal to release his tax returns despite the contrary common practice of presidents over the last 40 years has spurred interest in finding alternative ways to obtain the information. This article describes the authority of Congress, under section 6103(f)(1) and (4)(A), to obtain, inspect, and disclose the confidential tax information of any taxpayer, including the president, without the taxpayer’s consent. The authority may be exercised by any one of three tax committees: the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation.2

2  Under specific circumstances, other congressional committees, as well as the chief of staff of the JCT, also have the right to obtain protected tax information, but they have no ability to disclose it to the public without the taxpayer’s consent. Section 6103(f)(2), (3), and (4)(B). Also, many other persons may obtain tax information for tax administration and other purposes, but they generally may not disclose it further. See section 6103(a)(2) and (3). This article is limited to the right of the tax committees to obtain and disclose the information.

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Professor Yin's article is misleadingly titled as discussing Congressional authority to obtain *and release* tax returns, but it says little, and that probably wrong, about the authority to release. Section 6103 is full of privacy protections for the taxpayer, and the relevant part of it says that the committee can only be furnished the information "in closed executive session", which presumably means members cannot publish the returns of their political enemies in the New York Times, as so many Democrats are (suicidally, given a Republican Congress?) wishing were the case.

6103(f) Disclosure to Committees of Congress
(1) Committee on Ways and Means, Committee on Finance, and Joint Committee on Taxation
Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Mar 6, 2017 7:25:52 AM