Skip to Content

New York Opened the Door for Congress to Investigate Trump’s State Tax Returns

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that requires state officials to turn state tax returns over to certain congressional committees, should they be requested in writing for a "specified and legitimate legislative purpose."

The bill, passed by the state senate in May and signed by Cuomo on Monday, could be a direct hit to President Donald Trump, whose businesses reside in New York. Trump has long refused to turn over his tax returns, citing an ongoing audit.

The new law gives clearer access to the House Ways & Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation. If the chair of any of these committees requests documents from New York, the law dictates that the Commissioner of the Department of Taxation and Finance must share appropriately redacted versions of the state income tax returns and reports with the committee.

"By amending the law enforcement exception in New York State tax code to include Congressional tax-related committees, this bill gives Congress the ability to fulfill its Constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system and ensure that no one is above the law," Cuomo said in a statement.

The House Ways and Means Committee has already tried unsuccessfully to subpoena for six years of Trump's business and personal tax returns; House Democrats are now suing the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service in an attempt to force a turnover of the documents.

With much of the focus on Trump's federal returns, it's unclear if any of the three committees will take advantage of this new avenue. The law could also be challenged in court: the New York Times reports that Republicans have already derided the legislation as either a breach of privacy or a "bill of attainder," an unconstitutional move that targets an individual or group for punishment without trial.

The legislation makes no specific mention of Trump, however, and Cuomo argued in a statement that while he agrees "tax secrecy is paramount," there's an exception for "bonafide investigative and law enforcement purposes."