How Trump lost the fight over tax returns — and the clock Democrats face

A 1924 law allows certain congressional committees to access private tax information, including from the former president

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for a congressional committee to examine Donald Trump’s tax returns. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
5 min

Without comment or recorded dissent, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ended former president Donald Trump’s years-long fight to shield his tax records from House Democrats, paving the way for a congressional panel to review six years’ worth of federal returns and raising the possibility some of that information could become public.

The decision draws down a nearly four-year battle by the House Ways and Means Committee to obtain his personal and business records. Trump has insisted the exercise is politically motivated and that Congress lacks the authority to request the documents. But since leaving office, he has been dealt one loss after another in his bid to keep the information private.

In a post on Truth Social on Wednesday, Trump blasted the court’s decision. “It is unprecedented to be handing over Tax Returns, & it creates terrible precedent for future Presidents,” he wrote.

Trump broke with precedent when he refused as a presidential candidate, and then when elected, to release his tax returns, something every president since Richard M. Nixon has done. The explanation he gave was that he was being audited, though numerous experts have said that an audit would not have prevented him from releasing his returns.

The high court’s decision comes just before Democrats, who run the committee, must cede control of the chamber to Republicans. The GOP will take over in January, based on the results of the midterm elections.

Here’s what you need to know about Congress’s power to get tax returns, what led to the Supreme Court’s decision, and what comes next: