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The Department of Justice has ordered the IRS to hand over former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to Congress.

The move reverses a 2019 finding that the request from the House Ways and Means Committee was “disingenuous”.

The DoJ decision appears to end a long legal battle over the records, and is seen as a sharp legal blow to Donald Trump.

Although not required by law, every president since 1976 – except Donald Trump – has released their tax returns.

Donald Trump is yet to publicly comment on the latest developments, although he still has ways to try to fight the ruling in court.

Republicans on Capitol Hill denounced the decision, describing it as politically motivated.

When he was president, Donald Trump repeatedly said he was under audit by the IRS and so could not release his tax returns – although the IRS has said an audit would not stop the release of the information.

The House Ways and Means Committee has previously argued that it required Donald Trump’s tax returns for an investigation into whether he complied with tax law.

The Trump-era justice department, however, refused to hand them over. It argued that the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives was seeking them for partisan political gain.

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In an opinion released on July 30, the justice department’s Office of Legal Counsel determined that the committee “has invoked sufficient reasons” for requesting the tax information.

“Treasury must furnish the information to the Committee,” the opinion said.

Among those who praised the decision was Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said the American people “deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts and undermining of our security and democracy as president”.

In February, President Trump was ordered by the Supreme Court to hand over his tax returns and other financial records to prosecutors in New York.

The decision was a blow to Donald Trump, who had been in a legal battle to protect his records from a grand jury.

The former president has continuously denied any wrongdoing and has called the investigation into his tax affairs a “witch hunt”.

President Donald Trump has the right to keep his tax returns private and Democrats’ demands to see them are “harassment”, his lawyer, William Consovoy, has said.

The lawyer’s statement hints at the shape of a possible future legal battle over the issue.

On April 4, a Congressional tax committee demanded to see six years of Donald Trump’s returns, saying it was necessary to ensure accountability.

Unlike previous presidents, Donald Trump has refused to publish his tax details.

On April 5, the president said he believed that the law was “100% on my side”.

President Trump has maintained his business interests during his presidency, prompting questions about possible conflicts of interest. Questions also remain about his net worth, tax profile and past financial dealings.

The Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives in mid-term elections last year, giving them the ability to launch investigations into President Trump’s administration and business affairs.

William Consovoy said the tax committee did not have a valid legislative reason to see President Trump’s tax returns.

“His request is a transparent effort by one political party to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech,” the lawyer said of tax committee chairman Bill Neal.

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William Consovoy said the request was a “misguided attempt” to politicize tax laws and could also end up interfering with audits. He said the US Treasury should not comply with the demand.

President Trump has in the past said that he is unable to release his tax returns because they were being audited by the IRS.

However, the IRS has said that he could release the returns even if they are under audit.

In February the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen suggested during testimony to Congress that Donald Trump’s taxes were not under audit during the 2016 presidential campaign – when Donald Trump said they were.

President Trump had not wanted to release the tax returns because the resulting scrutiny could have led to an audit and “he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on”.