Top Democrat calls for oversight of Trump's demand for review of universities' tax-exempt status

Top Democrat calls for oversight of Trump's demand for review of universities' tax-exempt status
© Greg Nash

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHouse passes giant social policy and climate measure The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay Democrats press toward vote on massive Biden bill MORE (D-Mass.) on Wednesday called for a review of President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE's demand that the Treasury Department examine the tax-exempt status of universities and school systems.

In letters to the IRS and the Treasury inspectors general, Neal said that under the federal tax code, it's unlawful for the president to request that the IRS investigate specific taxpayers.

"Under Section 7217 of the Internal Revenue Code, it is unlawful for the President, the Vice President, and other Executive Branch employees to 'request, directly or indirectly, any officer or employee of the Internal Revenue Service to conduct or terminate an audit or other investigation of any particular taxpayer,'" Neal wrote.

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In a pair of tweets on Friday, Trump directed the Treasury to reevaluate schools' tax exemptions. The tweets came as Trump has been trying to pressure schools to hold in-person classes in the fall, thought they made no mention of the coronavirus.

Neal's letters included images of Trump's tweets. He asked the IRS and the inspectors general for the Treasury Department to provide information about whether anyone at Treasury and the IRS has taken steps to comply with Trump's comments, and about what is being done to ensure that the agencies don't comply with the president's directive.

Trump did not name specific institutions whose tax-exempt status he wants the Treasury Department to review. Most private and public colleges and universities are exempt from taxes because they qualify as 501(c)(3) organizations.