Reed: Politicizing tax returns is dangerous

The U.S. congressman for New York’s 23rd District says it is wrong to politicize someone’s tax return no matter who they are.

Last week, Tom Reed, R-Corning, made clear his position during a conference call with regional media when it comes to the request for President Donald Trump to release his tax returns. Reed said he believes in transparency, but doesn’t like that a top House of Representatives Democrat is going after an individual’s tax return for political purposes.

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., has written a letter to the IRS stating that law clearly gives Congress a right to the president’s tax returns.

The government’s failure to respond by an April 23 deadline could send the dispute into federal court. Trump’s treasury chief, who oversees the IRS, cited “complicated legal issues” and bemoaned “an arbitrary deadline” set by Congress, while saying he would answer in that time frame.

A new letter by Neal, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, comes after the Trump administration asked for more time to consider his initial request last week. Neal had requested six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns.

Neal argues that a 1920-era law saying the IRS “shall furnish” any tax return requested by Congress “is unambiguous and raises no complicated legal issues” and that the Treasury Department’s objections lack merit.

The letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig is the latest exchange in a tug of war over Trump’s returns, which would give lawmakers far greater insight into the president’s business dealings and potential conflicts of interest as it exercises its oversight role.

“(Neal is) weaponizing the tax law for inappropriate purposes,” he said. “Politicizing the tax code for political purposes is dangerous.”

Reed said Congress shouldn’t allow someone like Neal to go after one individual’s tax returns because today its the President, so who will it be tomorrow.

“Going after an individual’s tax return, when does it stop,” he said.

Reed said he is also against it because people like family and business associates who aren’t in politics could be impacted by releasing the tax documents.

“Those individuals are innocent bystanders now all of a sudden they are swept up into a political issue,” he said.

Trump declined to provide his tax information as a candidate in 2016 and as president, something party nominees have traditionally done in the name of transparency. By withholding his tax returns, Trump has not followed the standard followed by presidents since Richard Nixon started the practice in 1969.