Professor’s Argument Plays Role in President’s Tax Return Case

George Yin

Professor Emeritus George Yin was cited in a court opinion dismissing a case brought by former President Donald Trump. Photo by Michael Bailey

December 15, 2021

A University of Virginia School of Law professor’s mission to explain that Congress does have the power to review the president’s tax returns found traction in the courts Tuesday.

Trevor McFadden
Judge Trevor McFadden ’06

U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden ’06 dismissed former President Donald Trump’s attempt to block the Treasury Department from handing his returns over to the House Ways and Means Committee.

In testimony before Congress, op-eds and multiple media appearances, Professor Emeritus George Yin had argued that the law gives the congressional tax committees the authority to obtain and disclose tax returns without the taxpayer’s consent, so long as the committees have a legitimate purpose, such as to investigate and disclose possible conflicts of interest. Yin served as chief of staff of the U.S. Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation, one of the most influential tax positions in the country, from 2003-05. 

Yin wrote after the decision that he felt “confident” that the court’s decision will be affirmed on appeal, if there is one.

“Once Mr. Trump became the former President, his claim bordered on the frivolous and I think the opinion reflects that view,” Yin wrote in an email. “There is a separate question — mentioned by the court at the very end of its opinion — regarding whether any returns obtained by the committee should be revealed to the public. That question was not involved in, and therefore not decided by, the case, but the court appropriately urges caution before any such disclosure is made.”

McFadden, who Trump nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2017, cited Yin’s article “Preventing Congressional Violations of Taxpayer Privacy” in his opinion.

“Even if the former President is right on the facts, he is wrong on the law,” McFadden wrote. “A long line of Supreme Court cases requires great deference to facially valid congressional inquiries. Even the special solicitude accorded former Presidents does not alter the outcome.”

The House committee asked the IRS to release the president’s tax returns in 2019, which led Trump to seek relief in the courts.

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