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NY Senate Passes Bill to Force Release of Trump's State Tax Returns
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9 May 2019 07:14 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image source: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

Donald Trump has been successful for decades hiding his finances, and perhaps that's something he just didn't count on when he ran for president. It's not possible to hide things when you're president — it's different than being a reality TV star or a real estate mogul.  

He's been able to put off the discussion since his 2016 campaign on releasing his most recent tax returns, but being the first president to not release this information, pressure is mounting on him from several directions for his finances and tax returns. The House is after both his tax returns and financial records, and the state of New York is after his financial records as well.

 

The New York Times helped a little bit this week by publishing the information they saw from a decade of Trump's old federal tax records, and that showed he'd lost $1 billion in that time, from 1985 to 1994. 

Just after that release, the New York State Senate passed legislation that will force the release of Trump's state tax returns to congressional committees, meaning the House Democrats will be getting a window into Trump's financial picture, whether or not he gives them the go-ahead.

 

Now that the legislation has passed the New York State Senate, it still needs to be approved by the State Assembly and then needs to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. However, the Democrats have the majority in the Assembly, and Cuomo has previously signaled his support, so it's assumed that it won't be facing roadblocks. 

"One period of taxes that has been leaked shows many inconsistencies," explained State Senator Brad Hoylman (D), who introduced the legislation. "A lot of Americans want to know what else there is."

 

While this would still not give the House Ways and Means Committee the access they're looking for to get the six years of federal tax returns they're demanding, access to the state returns would still show the true financial picture for Trump's New York business deals, his income, and other personal information. 

"The New York state tax returns likely contain information that is similar to what is in the federal returns," said former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Harry Sandick. He also noted that the businesses losses and income would be similar at both the federal and state levels.

 

Monday was the most recent time Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin rejected the House Ways and Means Committee's demand for Trump's federal tax returns. Just as congressional Republicans feel the requests are violations of taxpayer privacy, the state Republicans have ridiculed the state bill as an attempt to embarrass Trump. 

Mnuchin said in his rejection of the request this week, "In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee's request lacks a legislative purpose, and ... the Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information."

 

Should House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) get ahold of the returns after New York state obtains them, it still wouldn't provide him a key part of his own request, which is to find out about IRS audits, as those likely would not be mentioned in the state returns. 

Additionally, federal law limits the federal tax information that states can disclose. "They're bound by the confidentiality agreement that applies to all federal tax information," said tax expert at the University of Virginia, George Yin. "They have to be very, very careful in what they're doing."

 

However, Professor Daniel Hemel of the University of Chicago feels there's a good chance Neal can get to the returns this way. 

"The claim that New York can't give Trump's returns to Ways and Means is really, really, really weak," he said. "New York has a really good argument that it's just mirroring Congress's own choice about confidentiality."

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