Saturday, July 31, 2021
Memorandum Opinion For the Acting General Counsel, Department of the Treasury, Ways and Means Committee’s Request for the Former President’s Tax Returns and Related Tax Information Pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 6103(f )(1), 45 Op. O.L.C. __ (July 30, 2021):
Section 6103(f)(1) of title 26, U.S. Code, vests the congressional tax committees with a broad right to receive tax information from the Department of the Treasury. It embodies a long-standing judgment of the political branches that the tax committees are uniquely suited to receive such information. The committees, however, cannot compel the Executive Branch to disclose such information without satisfying the constitutional requirement that the information could serve a legitimate legislative purpose.
In assessing whether requested information could serve a legitimate legislative purpose, the Executive Branch must give due weight to Congress’s status as a co-equal branch of government. Like courts, therefore, Executive Branch officials must apply a presumption that Legislative Branch officials act in good faith and in furtherance of legitimate objectives.
When one of the congressional tax committees requests tax information pursuant to section 6103(f )(1), and has invoked facially valid reasons for its request, the Executive Branch should conclude that the request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose only in exceptional circumstances. The Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former President’s tax information. Under section 6103(f)(1), Treasury must furnish the information to the Committee.