After a week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin - rather than Rettig - told Neal that the returns weren't yet available, as "t$3 he committee's request raises serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of Congressional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative goal, and the constitutional rights of American citizens".
Federal law gives the chairmen of House Ways and Means, Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation the power to request the returns of any taxpayer, although some legal scholars believe the request needs a legitimate legislative goal, which Democrats say they have met.
Trump has repeatedly claimed to be unable to release his tax returns because he is under audit. The bill would also require other presidential candidates to show their last five years of tax returns in order to run. "People expect the rule of law to work smoothly, but that" s not always the case".
"As the letter hints, Congress has broad powers and they're acting for proper purposes and usually the mental thoughts of the legislature don't negate the validity of the inquiry, but the question here is, are they in fact pursing a legitimate goal?" he said in an interview with Law&Crime.
The House Democrats' asked that the returns be turned over to the members of Congress.
Despite the law's clarity, Democrats have long acknowledged that the request, if denied, would mean a federal court battle that could ultimately be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Neal gave the government until 5:00 pm (2100 GMT) on April 23 to hand over the tax records. There is no prohibition on releasing returns to Congress or the public while under audit. Neal also could seek the returns through a subpoena.
Congressional Republicans and Trump's personal attorney, William Consovoy, have argued Democrats' request risks weaponizing the IRS for partisan political gain, with Consovoy calling it a "gross abuse of power".
At congressional hearings, Mnuchin accused lawmakers of seeking Trump's returns for political reasons.
In recent weeks, Trump has said that the American people elected him without seeing his taxes and would do it again.
The request for Trump's tax filings is but one of many oversight efforts launched by Democrats after taking back the House in last fall's midterms.