WASHINGTON - The head of a House Ways and Means Committee is formally asking the Internal Revenue Service to turn over the last six years of President Donald Trump's tax returns.
Congressman Richard Neal chairs the committee, which oversees tax policy, as Democrats seek to examine Trump's complex business empire.
Trump is the only U.S. president or candidate in more than 40 years to refuse to make his tax returns public.
"It is critical to ensure that accountability of our government and elected officials," Neal said Wednesday. "To maintain trust in our democracy, the American people must be assured that their government is operating properly, as laws intend."
Trump has said he cannot release his returns from 2013 through 2018 because he says he is under audit.
"I've been under audit for many years because the numbers are big and I guess when you have a name, you're audited," he said Wednesday.
But Neal is not asking Trump for the returns. He is asking the IRS, and there are no laws preventing the IRS from releasing the returns if they are being audited.
Neal said he is certain the Ways and Means committee is within its "legitimate legislative, legal and oversight rights" to examine Trump's personal and business taxes.
"The IRS has a policy of auditing the returns of all sitting presidents and vice presidents. Yet, little is known about the effectiveness pf this program," Neal said, adding that Americans have the right to know if the policy is being followed and whether the audits are conducted fully and appropriately.
Neal denies that politics have anything to do with his request. But Republicans say it is part of a continued witch hunt against Trump and sets a dangerous precedent.
Neal's request is likely to be challenged in court.