Does the President have the legal right to look at the tax returns of any citizen (Donald Trump)?

I apologize if these questions have been asked, but I was unable to find a similar thread, so here goes:

Would it be legal and proper for President Obama to peruse Donald Trump’s tax returns (or those of any U.S. citizen he chooses) for the last five years? (If it is legal for him to do so, I presume that it would be illegal for him to share that information publicly. Is that correct?)

Also, is it legal for him to investigate whether or not Trump is actually being audited and to determine the progress of the audit, if it is true, or to call him out on it, if it is not?

If neither of these actions is legal for the President to take, is there someone (the director of the F.B.I. maybe?) who does have that authority? Would there have to be certain conditions present before such an action could be taken?

Thanks for any illumination on this. It keeps nagging at me, so I thought I’d come to the place where someone is likely to have the answer!

Nobody other than the relevant IRS staff has a legal right to look at returns. That includes the President. 26 U.S. Code § 6103 - Confidentiality and disclosure of returns and return information

I don’t know whether a court order can force them to be revealed. I don’t remember hearing of that, though.

Actually, the provision you cite specifically permits disclosure of a person’s tax return to the President upon request. See section (g). Disclosure to other federal officials for various law enforcement purposes is provided for in section (h) and (i). Disclosure to state officials is permitted for state tax enforcement purposes.

It also includes:

Somehow, I don’t think “I want to fuck with his Presidential campaign” would be cool.

Here’s what (g) (2) says:

That does not include the information on the return. It is nowhere near allowing the President to “peruse the return.”

Yes, the information is available for tax prosecutions. And it also appears to become available via court order. Author who’s seen Trump’s tax returns says documents would expose lies about his wealth.

But is it allowed? :smiley:

I don’t think it’s correct to read (g)(2) as a limitation on (g)(1)'s general authority of the President to request a return. I read them as separate instances where disclosure is permitted, under different restrictions.

You may be right. (g) (2) does seem to pertain only to a person under consideration for an appointment.

Looks like it but he would probably face serious pushback from the IRS. The privacy of tax returns is pretty sacrosanct and handing them over for a political attack would seriously damage the agency’s credibility and reputation.

I was actually rather surprised myself to find that (g)(1) seemed so broad. I wonder if there may be case law or regulations impliedly limiting its application somehow.

I thought I remembered that Nixon asked for tax returns and that was considered up there with Watergate as one his big crimes.

Maybe he did it in some secretive, back-channel way.

Since the IRS is under the authority of the Treasury and the Treasury is under authority of the President, I’m not particularly surprised that it’s so broad. It could be a little awkward if the President was not able to get access to information his subordinates were using.

However, the rules about confidentiality still prevent Obama from sharing the return with reporters, the public, etc.

It wasn’t just looking at the returns, it was demanding that the IRS audit his enemies:
(This article also mentions that confidentiality over tax returns was tightened through legislation passed in 1976, so the standard for Nixon would be different than the standard for Obama.)

There’s another Nixon/tax/Watergate connection as well. During investigations into Watergate, Nixon’s own returns came under fire. Here’s an article that covers the issue in light of Trump’s current refusal: Bloomberg - Are you a robot?

I think he was either going to or already was siccing the IRS on his enemies.

Thanks. That’s probably what set off my memory.

Here’s an amazing quote from that article.

No wonder they tightened regulations!

But the other question hasn’t been answered, and I think it’s an interesting one. Could the president direct the IRS to hurry up and finish the audit- while clearly indicating no influence on the result- and do so publicly, claiming a pressing public interest due to the impending election?

Trump is merely using the audit as an excuse. There is no legal reason for him not to release his tax returns, audit or no audit. Nixon did. The fact an audit exists is irrelevant.

That’s beside the issue of whether a hurried audit is a good idea and whether Trump could delay the audit by not cooperating fully or on a timely basis. And how a Democrat president could possibly look good for interfering in any way.

Could someone pressure The Donald by reminding him that he’d better release what’s in his taxes because if he doesn’t, maybe Obama might kinda take a look at them, and somebody might blab to the lamestream media?

You must be new around here. The IRS’s reputation was ruined at least 30 years ago.

Let me introduce you to the 1997 Roth hearings.