Congressional Committee’s Request for the President’s Tax Returns Under 26 U.S.C. § 6103(f)
The provisions in 26 U.S.C. § 6103 protecting confidentiality of tax returns prohibited the Department of the Treasury from complying with a request by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for the President’s tax returns. The text of section 6103(f), the statutory exception under which the request was made, does not require the Committee to state any purpose for its request. But Congress could not constitutionally confer upon the Committee the right to compel the Executive Branch to disclose confidential information without a legitimate legislative purpose. Under the facts and circumstances, the Secretary of the Treasury reasonably and correctly concluded that the Committee’s asserted interest in reviewing the Internal Revenue Service’s audits of presidential returns was pretextual and that its true aim was to make the President’s tax returns public, which is not a legitimate legislative purpose.
Because section 6103(a) prohibited the disclosure of the tax returns sought in the Chairman’s request, as well as in the corresponding subpoenas, the Department of the Treasury’s refusal to provide the information did not violate either 26 U.S.C. § 7214(a)(3) or 2 U.S.C. § 192.