WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States Treasury will not hand President Donald Trump's tax returns over to Democratic lawmakers, defying a demand from Congress, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday (May 6).
The request by the House Committee on Ways and Means "lacks a legitimate purpose", meaning the US Treasury is not authorised to release tax filings by Mr Trump and his businesses, Mr Mnuchin said in a letter to the committee's chairman.
Mr Mnuchin's refusal after a month of deliberation appeared certain to spark yet another legal clash between the embattled President and congressional Democrats who now control the House of Representatives.
Under a statute granting the committee access to tax filings, the committee last month had asked the US Internal Revenue Service for five years of tax returns filed by Mr Trump and eight of the corporate entities comprising his business empire.
But Mr Mnuchin repeatedly slid past deadlines set by the committee, calling the request "unprecedented" and warning that it raised constitutional questions and threatened taxpayer privacy.
Mr Mnuchin said on Monday he had made his decision in consultation with the US Department of Justice.
"I am informing you now that the Department may not lawfully fulfil the committee's request," Mr Mnuchin said in a letter to Representative Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the committee chairman.
Mr Trump in 2016 became the first presidential candidate in decades to seek the White House without first disclosing his tax returns.
At the same time, he has not divested from his global business holdings, exposing him to accusations of potential conflicts of interest in conducting US affairs.