New law gives Congress access to president’s state tax returns

Legislative Gazette file photo
Sen. Brad Hoylman, at podium, was the Senate sponsor of two bills signed by the governor this week that will require President Donald Trump to disclose his state tax returns if congressional investigators request them.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Monday that will allow congressional investigators to access President Donald Trump’s tax records.

The TRUST Act (S.5072-a/A.7194-a and S.6146/A.7750) authorizes the sharing of New York State tax returns filed by top government officials at the federal, state and local levels with a requesting Congressional tax committee when the request is made in the furtherance of a legitimate task of Congress.

“Tax secrecy is paramount — the exception being for bonafide investigative and law enforcement purposes,” Governor Cuomo said. “By amending the law enforcement exception in New York State tax code to include Congressional tax-related committees, this bill gives Congress the ability to fulfill its Constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system and ensure that no one is above the law.”

U.S. presidents are not required to disclose their tax returns, but Trump has broken with decades of tradition by keeping his secret. Trump, a New York resident, would have to provide his state tax records if requested, but not his federal tax returns.

The bills were sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman, Assemblyman David Buchwald and passed by the Legislature in May.

“The legislation of mine that Governor Cuomo signed today … helps restore the fundamental democratic principal that no one person — no matter what office they might hold — is above the law,” Hoylman said.

“As the home state of Donald Trump, New York has a special role to play to help avoid a constitutional crisis between the President and Congress in their effort to obtain his tax returns. But this legislation is bigger than one person or one president. Moving forward, this new law helps Congress perform one of its most important responsibilities: oversight of the Office of the President.

Specifically the bill amends section 697 of the Tax Law (Personal Income Tax) to add a new subsection directing the Commissioner of the Department of Taxation and Finance to share state income tax returns and reports upon the written request of the chairperson of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Such a request must be accompanied by certification that the tax returns or reports have been requested for a specified and legitimate legislative purpose, the requesting committee has made a written request to the U.S Secretary of the Treasury for related federal returns or return information and that the returns will be treated by the requesting committee in a manner consistent with federal law authorizing the same committees to request and receive federal income tax returns from the U.S. Treasury.

The state Tax Commissioner will be required to redact any information that, if disclosed, would violate state or federal law or would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy such as social security numbers, account numbers, and residential address information.

The chairman of the state Republican Committee called the new law a waste of taxpayer resources because it will be overturned in the courts.

“This law is nothing more than presidential harassment. Today Andrew Cuomo and Albany Democrats are using it to go after President Trump, but tomorrow it could be any New Yorker,” said New York State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy. “It will never stand up in the courts and they will once again be exposed for wasting precious taxpayer resources on their never-ending partisan witch hunt.”