Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Vox: How the States Can Make President Trump’s Taxes Public, by Daniel Hemel (Chicago):
The Trump administration’s release of a tax plan — or, at least, a one page summary of its goals for tax policy — has drawn renewed attention to the president’s refusal to release his own tax returns. How much would the president personally benefit from his proposal to abolish the Alternative Minimum Tax? How much does he stand to gain from a reduced 15 percent rate on certain business income?
House Democrats have proposed a number of measures that would make the president’s tax returns public, but the Republican majority has blocked these efforts (despite defections by two of their members). With the president unlikely to release his returns and Congress unlikely to force him to, state lawmakers are looking for creative ways to compel disclosure of the president’s tax filings.
One such strategy, which state lawmakers in New York are pursuing, would lead to the immediate release of President Donald Trump’s state tax returns. A bill pending in Albanyleverages the Empire State’s unique position as the sitting president’s lifelong home. It would require the state’s tax authority to publish any New York state returns filed by the president, the vice president, and all statewide elected officials. That bill would apply to returns filed in the past five years as well as all New York state returns filed by those officeholders in future years.
New York’s “immediate release” bill is not the only effort at the state level to force the disclosure of the president’s tax information. Another approach is to require presidential candidates to release their federal returns if they want their names on a given state’s 2020 ballot. Lawmakers in at least 30 states have introduced ballot access bills along these lines.
One disadvantage to the ballot access approach is it would not produce any information until the next presidential election. Another potential flaw is that Trump might choose not to go along. If these bills become law only in deep blue states, Trump might decide not to place his name on those states’ ballots, given that he expects to lose there anyway. New York’s immediate release strategy, by contrast, would take effect without a three-year time-lag, and there would be no way for President Trump to escape its operation. And while Trump’s New York state returns do not contain all of the information we would find in his federal returns, they come close.