US court clears Trump tax returns release

The US Supreme Court has cleared the release of Donald Trump's tax returns to a House of Representatives committee, handing a defeat to the Republican former president who had called the Democratic-led panel's request politically motivated.

The justices denied Trump's October 31 emergency application to block a lower court's ruling that upheld the ways and means committee's request for his tax records as a justified part of the panel's legislative work.

No justice publicly dissented from the decision.

The committee, which has sought six years of Trump's tax records spanning 2015 to 2020, will have little time to complete its work related to the returns before a Republican takeover of the House.

Republicans secured a narrow majority following the November 8 midterm elections and take control of the House - and the committee - in January.

The fight over his tax returns is one of many legal woes for Trump as he moves forward with another run for the presidency in 2024. Trump last week announced the launch of his candidacy.

Ways and means chairman Richard Neal said the Supreme Court's action upheld the principle of congressional oversight, "and the committee will now conduct the oversight that we've sought for the last three-and-a-half years".

A Trump spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Trump was the first president in four decades years not to release his tax returns as he sought to keep secret the details of his wealth and the activities of his real estate company, the Trump Organization.

The panel in its request invoked a federal law that empowers its chairman to request any person's tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service.

House Democrats have said they need to see Trump's tax returns to assess whether the IRS is properly auditing presidential returns and to gauge whether new legislation is needed.

Trump's lawyers have said the committee's real aim is to expose his tax returns and unearth politically damaging information about him.

A US District Judge in December 2021 and the US Court of Appeals in August threw out Trump's challenge to the committee's request.

Tuesday's order superseded one issued by Chief Justice John Roberts on November 1 that had effectively paused the dispute while the court considered how to proceed.

Trump has mounting legal worries.

His real estate company is in the midst of a criminal trial in New York on tax fraud charges.

In addition, US Attorney-General Merrick Garland last week named a special counsel to oversee two investigations, including one related to the FBI's seizure of government documents from Trump's Florida home.

A civil lawsuit by New York state's attorney-general will go to trial next year accusing Trump and three of his adult children of fraudulently overvaluing the company's assets and his net worth.

And an investigation in Georgia is examining whether Trump interfered with the 2020 election results in that state.