Judge rejects request to release Trump’s tax returns under freedom of information laws

WASHINGTON — A federal appellate court has rejected a non-profit organization’s attempt to obtain President Donald Trump’s tax records from the Internal Revenue Service by filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

DC Circuit Court Judge Karen Henderson wrote that the President should be afforded the same privacy rights as any other citizen.

“This case presents the question whether a member of the public — here, a nonprofit organization — can use a FOIA request to obtain an unrelated individual’s tax records without his consent,” Henderson wrote in an opinion on behalf of herself and two other appellate judges. “With certain limited exceptions — all inapplicable here — the answer is no.”

Previous presidents have released their tax returns as a matter of course, but Trump has resisted making his records public, both as a candidate and in office.

Henderson wrote that the President’s tax returns are protected by the IRS.

“No one can demand to inspect another’s tax records,” she wrote. “And the (Internal Revenue Code’s) confidentiality protections extend to the ordinary taxpayer and the President alike.”

The decision in the DC federal appeals court affirmed the prior decision of a trial-level judge rejecting the freedom of information suit filed against the IRS by the nonprofit Election Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in 2017.

The nonprofit sent the IRS a FOIA request shortly after the 2016 election seeking Trump’s tax returns stretching back to 2010 “and any other indications of financial relations with the Russian government or Russian businesses,” according to Henderson’s opinion.

The IRS declined the FOIA request and a subsequent request from EPIC, leading the nonprofit to sue the IRS.

The ruling won’t end efforts to win the release of Trump’s tax records.

House Democrats, including members on the House Ways and Means Committee, have said one of their priorities will be requesting the disclosure of the President’s tax returns.

New York Times report from October found that Trump helped “his parents dodge taxes” in the 1990s, including “instances of outright fraud.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump broke with candidate norms and declined to release his tax returns for public review.

Trump has repeatedly claimed he cannot release his tax returns because he’s under audit by the IRS. Being under audit by the IRS, however, does not preclude someone from disclosing their tax returns.