President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he doesn't want to let Democrats see his tax returns once they assume control of the U.S. House of Representatives next year.
But that's actually not up to the president ― according to the law, at least.
The leaders of key congressional committees can ask the IRS for anybody's tax returns. Republicans simply did not want to do so. Democrats said in October that they would ask the IRS for Trump's returns if they regained control of the House, which they did on Tuesday night.
Trump said Wednesday that he would hand over his tax returns if he weren't being audited ― an excuse he has made since his 2016 campaign, even though nothing about an IRS audit prevents a candidate or a president from disclosing his returns.
"If I were finished with the audit, I would have an open mind to it," he said Wednesday in a rambling answer to a reporter's question.
Federal law gives congressional tax committees the power to obtain anyone's tax returns. If the taxpayer doesn't consent in writing, the committees still have the power to obtain the returns in a secret meeting.
In response to a written request, the law says, "the Secretary [of the Treasury] shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request."
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would review any such request with department lawyers "for legality," according to a spokesperson.
"I don't think there's any reasonable basis to resist," said Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center. But, he added, "there's no telling what this president will do, whether he'll flout the law."
Trump was the first major-party presidential candidate in 40 years not to release his tax returns, which can reveal detailed information about a person's sources of income, charitable giving and the amount of taxes paid.