A federal judge in Washington, D.C. dismissed a lawsuit seeking President Trump’s tax returns Friday, concluding the court cannot compel the IRS to produce the records without the president’s consent.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a Washington-based advocacy group that advocates for civil liberties and government accountability, attempted to obtain Trump’s returns through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The law requires the disclosure of government documents, records, and communications sought by journalists, oversight groups, or private citizens, though it provides exemptions for certain categories of records.
U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg, a Barack Obama appointee, ruled that federal regulations preclude the production of tax records without the consent of the party to whom the belong. He explained that FOIA requires those seeking records to comply with “published rules stating the time, place, fees (if any), and procedures to be followed.” In this case, Treasury Department rules prohibit the release of an individual’s tax records without their consent. Because EPIC’s request is not in compliance with the published rules of the Treasury Department, Boasberg said their case must be dismissed.
“At bottom, EPIC wants the IRS to reveal another person’s income-tax returns without his consent,” he wrote. “Although those returns happen to belong to President Trump, that fact does not alter the outcome here.”
The Internal Revenue Code and the various Treasury regulations on FOIA well articulate what must happen for the public release of an individual’s private return information. EPIC must either obtain President Trump’s consent to initiate a FOIA request or, as the organization itself suggests, convince Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation to sign off on the IRS’s disclosure. As neither of these key missing actions can happen in court, Plaintiff’s claims must be dismissed.
EPIC vowed to continue its pursuit of records relating to Trump’s taxes after the ruling.
“EPIC will continue to pursue the release of President’s Trump’s tax records and related evidence of financial relations with the Russian government,” the organization said in a statement.
The group is also suing to secure the release of a government report detailing the full breadth of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as information relating to the FBI’s response to those activities.
Trump is the first president in modern history not to release his tax returns.