November 5, 2019 / 12:00 PM / 17 days ago

EXPLAINER-Ways Trump’s tax returns could come to light

    By Brendan Pierson
    NEW YORK, Nov 5 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump
broke with a decades-long tradition of U.S. presidential
candidates by not releasing his tax returns during his campaign,
prompting state and Congressional investigators to seek the
returns through other means.
    On Monday, a federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled that
Trump's accounting firm could hand eight years of his returns
over to New York prosecutors, in one of several legal battles
over the returns. Trump is expected to appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court.
    Below are four ways investigators could get his tax returns.
    
    1. Trump's longtime accounting firm, Mazars LLP, could hand
the returns over to the Democratic-led U.S. House of
Representatives Oversight Committee.
    The committee subpoenaed Mazars for Trump's financial
records, including tax returns, in April. It said the committee
said it needed the records to determine if Trump - whose
business interests have ranged from real estate and golf courses
to a reality TV show - complied with laws requiring disclosure
of his assets, and to assess whether those laws need to be
changed.
    Trump sued in April, arguing that the committee's subpoena
was politically motivated and exceeded limits on congressional
investigative power.
    A federal district court and an appeals court have both 
upheld the committee's authority to enforce the subpoena, but it
remains on hold as Trump seeks a rehearing in the appeals court.

    2. Mazars could give the returns to New York state
prosecutors.
    Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance issued a subpoena to
Mazars in August, seeking eight years of Trump's returns as part
of a criminal investigation. Trump's lawyers sued to block the
subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had
absolute immunity from state criminal investigations. The scope
of the investigation is not known.
    Last month, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that Trump
was not immune from investigation, and on Nov. 4, an appeals
court upheld that ruling.             
    Vance's office has agreed not to enforce the subpoena while
Trump appeals to the Supreme Court. It has also said in court
that if it obtains the returns, they will remain confidential.
    
    3. The House Ways and Means Committee could get the tax
returns from the U.S. Treasury Department.
    U.S. Representative Richard Neal, chair of the committee,
asked the Treasury Department to turn over six years of Trump's
tax returns in April. Federal law states that the Treasury
"shall furnish" tax returns to Congress upon request. 
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has refused to hand
over Trump's returns. The committee in July filed a lawsuit in
federal court in Washington, D.C. seeking to compel the Treasury
to comply. In August, the judge overseeing the case declined to
fast-track the litigation, meaning the dispute is likely to
extend well into 2020.
       
    4. States could obtain the returns through new laws.   
    Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom in July signed a
law requiring presidential candidates to release five years of
tax returns in order to appear on a nominating ballot in the
state.
    Trump sued to block the law, saying it violated the U.S.
Constitution. A federal judge sided with the president last
month, and the law remains in limbo while the state appeals.
    Similarly, Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in July
signed a law requiring state authorities to hand state tax
returns over to Congress. However, Neal has said the law may not
be relevant to his inquiry, which focuses on Trump's federal
returns.             
    Trump has filed a lawsuit to block the New York law.
Whatever its outcome, the law will be limited to past years, as
the president recently changed his state of residence from New
York to Florida.             

 (Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill
Berkrot)
  
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