The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Tuesday upheld a ruling dismissing an attempt to overcome IRS privacy rules to acquire President Donald Trump’s tax returns through a public-records lawsuit.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center attempted to use a Freedom of Information Act request to get the president’s tax returns, which he has withheld citing a pending Internal Revenue Service audit. Legal experts contend nothing prohibits the president from releasing his tax returns.
The panel on Tuesday said all government records are presumed public under FOIA unless specifically exempted. The panel added the Internal Revenue Code specifically exempts individual taxpayers’ tax returns. That code was passed after President Richard Nixon attempted to use the IRS to harass political opponents.
“This case presents the question whether a member of the public—here, a nonprofit organization—can use a FOIA request to obtain an unrelated individual’s tax records without his consent,” D.C. Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote for the panel. “With certain limited exceptions—all inapplicable here—the answer is no. No one can demand to inspect another’s tax records. And the IRC’s confidentiality protections extend to the ordinary taxpayer and the President alike.”
Henderson wrote: “Because EPIC requested only records that are in fact exempt from FOIA, however, we affirm on the merits the dismissal of the three FOIA claims.”
The unanimous panel also included Judges Patricia Millett and Harry Edwards.
Tuesday’s decision upheld a ruling from U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in D.C., who tossed the suit after finding EPIC never got consent from Trump, or a congressional committee, for the documents’ disclosure.
Read the opinion here in EPIC v. IRS: