New York passes bill that would allow Congress to get Trump tax returns

Trump’s tax returns would be handed to congress if the bill in New York is passed. (AFP pic)

NEW YORK: President Donald Trump has steadfastly refused to make public his tax returns, but lawmakers in New York state on Wednesday passed a bill that may allow for them to be published against his wishes.

The text – which Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign – would clear a path for tax officials in his home state to offer some of the documents to Congress.

After a first vote in the state Senate earlier this month, the state Assembly, a Democratic stronghold, adopted the measure, according to a spokeswoman.

The bill would allow the tax returns of Trump and other local and federal officials to be handed over to congressional committees, as long as there is a “specified and legitimate legislative purpose.”

Cuomo is a virulent Trump critic, so he is certain to sign the measure.

US taxpayers generally submit two income tax returns: one to federal tax authorities and the other to state officials. They also file with local officials to handle property and other municipal taxes.

Any documents handed over to Congress by New York tax officials about Trump’s taxes would offer a first glimpse into the financial situation of the billionaire real estate mogul-turned-president.

Democrats have long criticised Trump for refusing to release his tax returns, as past presidents have done for the last four decades.

Since before the 2016 election, he has claimed that his personal and corporate annual income statements have been under audit by the Internal Revenue Service and cannot be released.

His Democratic opponents suspect him of using accounting and other loopholes to avoid paying taxes.

The New York Times reported that based on an analysis of IRS records, Trump reported losses of nearly US$1.2 billion between 1985 and 1994, and may have been able to carry over those losses for years afterwards to minimise his tax bills.

This month, the US Treasury refused to hand over the documents to lawmakers, defying a congressional subpoena.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Democrat Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, that the committee “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” to demand Trump’s tax returns – the same standard adopted in New York.

The text passed in New York state confirms that lawmakers want to help congressional Democrats in their battle with Trump.

On Tuesday, New York state lawmakers adopted another anti-Trump text, this one aimed at allowing state prosecutors to go after recipients of presidential pardons – including those in Trump’s inner circle.