Treasury Department misses Democrats' deadline for Trump tax returns

Rep. Richard Neal leaves a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol Jan. 4 2019

Federal law allows the Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees and the Joint Committee on Taxation to ask the IRS for the returns of any filer, but some legal scholars say a request requires Congress to have a legislative goal, including general oversight.

In a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin writes that he needs more time to consult with the Department of Justice given the "unprecedented nature of this request".

"We intend to follow through with this", Neal said Wednesday. The IRS is part of Treasury.

President Donald Trump continues to hold the line on refusing to release his tax returns. I respect the committee, and we want to have a good working relationship with you.

The Committee determined that such a request would be an "abuse of authority" and "set a unsafe precedent by targeting a single individual's confidential tax returns and associated financial documents for disclosure" for political reasons.

If the IRS misses the Wednesday deadline, Neal is likely to send a follow-up letter about his request, according to CNN. Before Waters ended the hearing at 5:30 p.m., Mnuchin withdrew his offer to return before the committee in May.

Mnuchin also clashed with committee chair Maxine Waters.

It's not clear how long the subsequent court fights would take.

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It was notable in itself that Mnuchin responded to the request, rather than IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. New York's legislature is now considering legislation that would allow Congress to request the president's tax returns from the state's Department of Taxation and Finance.

"While I'm under audit I would not give my taxes - there's no law whatsoever". "That's really hard to predict", Hemel said. I want to be very clear on that.

"No lawyer would tell you to release your tax returns while you're under audit", Trump said.

Both Rettig and Mnuchin are Trump appointees.

"We need to make sure that the IRS and the individual taxpayer info does not become subject to political wills", said Mnuchin on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund. Mnuchin said the conversations were "purely informational, " and he has not been briefed on their content. But the White House is supposed to stay out of the decision, and Rettig said he's had no contact with anyone there.

Democrats say a 1924 statute requires the Treasury secretary to turn over tax returns to the chairmen of the congressional tax committees who ask for them for investigative purposes. These arguments have been echoed in House hearings by congressional Republicans. "The Ways and Means Committee in particular has a responsibility to conduct oversight of our voluntary federal tax system and determine how Americans - including those elected to our highest office - are complying with those laws".

In the latest contest between Democrats and the administration, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Rep. Maxine Waters that he wouldn't come back to Congress if forced to stay past 5:15pm. The IRS has said that there's nothing preventing the president from publicizing them prior to the audit's completion.

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