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Disclosure of presidential tax returns will be subject of Feb. 7 House hearing

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) will preside over a hearing next week on disclosure of presidential tax returns. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

A House panel is set to examine proposals that would force the public disclosure of presidential and vice-presidential tax returns, a direct challenge from Democrats to President Trump’s norm-breaking decision not to reveal his own.

The hearing of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight is scheduled for the afternoon of Feb. 7, two days after Trump visits Capitol Hill for his State of the Union address.

The panel’s chairman, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), did not provide details about the hearing Thursday beyond its title, “Legislative Proposals and Tax Law Related to Presidential and Vice-Presidential Tax Returns,” and a list of witnesses.

Democrats have invited Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; Steven M. Rosenthal of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center; Joseph J. Thorndike of the nonprofit publisher Tax Analysts; and George K. Yin, a University of Virginia law professor and former chief of staff to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Republicans could invite additional witnesses.

Democrats tried 17 different times to obtain President Trump’s tax returns over the past two years. Now they may finally get them. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

The hearing is a crucial first step for congressional Democrats, who have said they plan to pursue multiple avenues to force Trump to disclose his returns and also force future presidential and vice-presidential candidates to follow suit.

Before Trump withheld his returns during the 2016 campaign, citing ongoing audits, presidential candidates dating back four decades had provided at least some information about the taxes they have paid. In one extreme case, 2016 Republican candidate Jeb Bush released 33 years’ worth of returns.

Two House Democrats who have introduced legislation to force disclosure of presidential tax returns, Reps. Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Bill Pascrell (N.J.), said Trump’s stance has left the public “in the dark about the extent of his financial entanglements and potential conflicts of interest.”

“We look forward to using this first hearing to discussing the critical importance of full tax disclosure for any man or woman seeking the presidency,” they said in a joint statement.

A broad political reform bill supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and co-sponsored by 226 other Democrats includes a provision requiring presidential and vice-presidential candidates to submit their 10 most recent tax returns to the Federal Election Commission for public disclosure. The House could vote on the legislation as soon as next month, although the GOP-controlled Senate is unlikely to advance it.

Democrats are also expected at some point to take advantage of a provision in a 1924 federal law allowing the chairman of any of the three congressional tax committees to inspect any taxpayer’s return.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) has said he expects to move deliberately toward such a request in the expectation that Trump would probably challenge it in court.

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