TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Chodorow:  Trump Should Pay The Political Price For Failing To Release His Tax Returns

Trump (2016-3)Slate:  Keep Harping Over Trump’s Tax Returns, by Adam Chodorow (Arizona State):

His refusal to release them no longer feels like a first-order concern. But it’s one more broken norm that Americans will rue.

It’s fairly evident by now why Trump wouldn’t want his returns to be public—as I’ve written several times throughout the election cycle. There’s no reason to think he’ll reverse course and finally release them in the next week. But this goes far beyond Trump. Every major candidate for the past 26 years has released his or her tax returns, and we risk undermining this important tradition if we allow Trump’s refusal to get lost amid his other scandals and outrageous statements or concerns about Clinton’s emails. Just as candidates now release medical records to assure voters that they are fit for office, tax records are critical because they reveal a candidate’s potential conflicts of interest and commitment to honesty and integrity.

Trump’s refusal to produce records likely doesn’t make the top-five list of norms he has broken this election cycle, and if he loses, it likely won’t be cited as a key reason for his loss. But we can’t forget it. Rather, we should reaffirm our expectation that all major candidates for the highest office in the land should release their returns—and make clear that those who do not pay a stiff political price.

 

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/11/chodorowtrump-should-pay-the-political-price-for-failing-to-release-his-tax-returns.html

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Comments

"26 years" is only a "tradition" to students. None of those 26 years of tax returns have made any difference in outcome unless they gave a biased media (or a corrupt IRS) something to harp on. We have a much, much longer tradition of financial privacy for private citizens that is of much more importance to preserve unassailed.

And Mr Trump has been, is now, and will be until Tuesday, a private citizen. It's concerning that any tax professional would advocate destroying the confidentiality of taxes and finances for their clients, or those of their students.

Mr Trump's entire life has been an open book and still is. Genuine voters don't need his tax returns to see that. His tax returns are lawfully, ethically, traditionally, customarily, acceptably private.

To insinuate or accuse anything untoward about that perfectly normal tradition is beyond the pale for both tax experts and for journalists.

The reason tax returns were disclosed was because until now, every "major candidate" was a politician. Public "servants" whose money comes from citizen tax dollars release their returns to show they are not using their office for personal gain. Oh. Wait. Congress recently voted - again - to allow themselves and their staffers to do insider trading and get rich from info passed to them that isn't available to the public. Oh. Wait. Hillary Clinton didn't disclose millions in "donations" from foreign actors coincidental to favors she did for their countries.

Hmmm... maybe there's no reliable benefit to voters in anyone turning over their so-called "tax returns" after all.

Posted by: Tina | Nov 6, 2016 1:52:26 PM

It seems to me we have a double standard for high office v. lowly government employees. IRS agents must have their returns audited before they can be employed. You would think we could add a requirement to higher office that they have to have complied with our tax laws and reveal their tax returns to the public.

Posted by: Sid | Nov 6, 2016 5:06:04 PM

"IRS agents must have their returns audited before they can be employed. You would think we could add a requirement to higher office that they have to have complied with our tax laws and reveal their tax returns to the public."

No one is disputing that Mr. Trump's returns are subject to audit.

Posted by: Anonymous | Nov 7, 2016 4:33:30 AM

Sid,

Is this the double standard you're talking about:

"IRS gave bonuses to employees who owed back taxes. And that’s not all."
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/04/23/irs-gave-bonuses-to-employees-who-owed-back-taxes-and-thats-not-all/

"1,580 IRS workers evaded taxes over 10-year period."
https://www.yahoo.com/news/report-1-580-irs-workers-evaded-taxes-over-185646891--finance.html?ref=gs

Fascinating reading. Evidently evading taxes, which is supposed to get you fired immediately at the IRS, as well as drug use, violent threats, and fradulent benefits claims doesn't seem to be too unusual for this agency.

The only double standard I see is between the public sector, where getting fired is very difficult, and the private sector, where any of these ordinary offenses would get you fired on the spot.

Now Secretary Clinton's email use, that's a perfect example of a governmental double standard...

Posted by: MM | Nov 7, 2016 8:01:06 AM

MM you obviously do not work in tax or the law....there is always a different interpretation of laws and regulations..... and having worked in government have seen many a stupid interpretation of the rules

Posted by: Sid | Nov 7, 2016 6:38:14 PM

Sid,

Do you have any evidence that any of these IRS employees have been disciplined or terminated? I couldn't find any, and that's really the bottom line here...

Posted by: MM | Nov 8, 2016 1:17:01 PM