President Trump Challenges NYS TRUST Act to Block Release of His Tax Records

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Assemblyman David Buchwald

By Joan Gaylord

Lawyers for President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit this past week in an effort to block New York State’s recently enacted TRUST Act. Sponsored by Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains) and signed into law this month by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the TRUST Act allows New York to release state tax records of any New York government official, including the President, when requested by any of three federal Congressional committees that have an oversight role on tax policy.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., claims that releasing the state tax records would violate the President’s First Amendment rights. It seeks to block the House Ways and Means Committees from requesting the records and the state from complying with any request.

Assemblyman Buchwald said the President’s attorneys appear to be making a privacy-relate claim. He said the courts might issue an emergency order to prevent the immediate release of the records and to allow time to consider the points included in the lawsuit.

“I expect New York will defend the state’s rights and I have every confidence that New York will prevail,” said Assemblyman Buchwald.

The New York law followed the decision made by the U.S. Treasury Department to refuse Congressional requests for the President’s federal tax returns. The law allows the state to furnish records to the federal House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee of Taxation. Assemblyman Buchwald noted that New York already provides the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with access to New York tax records when requested. Earlier in his career, Assemblyman Buchwald practiced tax law.

“This new legislation is wholly consistent with a long tradition of states responding when there are disputes between branches of government,” he explained.

If the federal committee chairs do not ask for the information, the New York law as written would not permit the state to disclose the returns, noted Bridget Crawford, a professor of tax law at Pace Law School in White Plains. She added, however, that there would be nothing that would prohibit the state from passing a law that requires public disclosure of tax returns as a condition of a candidate’s appearing on a statewide or national ballot in New York.

“Trump’s attorneys are making a privacy-related claim, but I do not think it will be successful,” commented Professor Crawford. “If the federal committee chairs have a proper motive for requesting the return, such as investigating President Trump’s possible conflicts of interests, then New York would be within the bounds of the newly drafted law to disclose them.”

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