Friday, February 08, 2019

Will We Finally Get To See Trump's Tax Returns?

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to release his tax returns. His excuse for not releasing them immediately was that they were being audited. That was a BS excuse, since the IRS had no problem with him releasing them while they were being audited -- and he could have released the years that were not being audited.

After being elected, Trump refused to release those tax returns. He continued to claim they were being audited, and he added a couple more excuses.

He said the American people were not interested in his returns. The chart above shows that was just a lie. Every poll done since his election shows a majority wanting the release of those tax returns, and this latest poll (the ABC News / Washington Post Poll done between January 21st and 24th of a national sample of 1,001adults, with a 3.5 point margin of error) shows that 60% wants House Democrats to get those returns and release them to the public. Only 35% disagree.

He also said most people wouldn't understand the returns because they were so complicated. He seems to think the American people are stupid. They aren't. Most people know how to read a tax form, and I'm sure there are plenty of experts around that could explain them to even the dumbest people (the Trump supporters).

For the last two years, Trump has been able to get away with not releasing his tax returns. That's because both Houses of Congress were controlled by Republicans, and they were more interested in protecting Trump than learning the truth.

That has changed now. With the House solidly in control of Democrats, it is a foregone conclusion that those Democrats will ask for the Trump returns. And if Trump refuses (or his Treasury Secretary refuses to provide them), then the Democrats will go to the courts to force their release.

Will we finally get to see the Trump tax returns? Maybe. If we don't, it will be because the court fight lasted until the 2020 election and became a moot point after Trump lost the election.

Here's how Laura Davison and Andrew M. Harris describe the situation for Bloomberg Businessweek:

1. Why hasn’t Trump released his tax returns?

His most consistent explanation has been that, at the advice of his lawyers, he won’t do so while they are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service -- and that he has been audited constantly since 2004. On other occasions, he’s also said that there’s "nothing to learn from" his returns, that they are "extremely complex" so people "wouldn’t understand them," and that Americans who aren’t reporters don’t "care at all" about what’s in them. No law prevents him from releasing returns being audited by the IRS.

2. Why is the IRS auditing his tax returns?

For the returns he filed in the years before becoming president, there’s no way to know that -- or even to confirm that his returns really are under active audit. It’s true that an audit, once begun by the IRS, can take several years to complete, particularly for wealthy individuals like Trump with stakes in many business entities. So Trump could easily be under audit for the remainder of his presidency. (All presidents and vice presidents are audited annually during the years they are in office, but those audits are completed relatively quickly.)

3. Is he the only president not to share tax returns?

Over the last four decades, only Gerald Ford -- who became president in 1974, then ran unsuccessfully for a full term in 1976 -- also refused to release at least one of his annual tax returns, choosing instead to offer the public a summary of his tax data. Other presidents and presidential nominees have released one year’s worth (Republican Ronald Reagan) to 33 years’ worth (Republican Jeb Bush) of returns for the public to review.

4. What’s so interesting about Trump’s tax returns?

His unwillingness to release the documents has heightened speculation about what information about loans, business ties or his wealth they could contain. There are questions about what if any financial dealings he’s had with Russia, what conflicts of interest his business and political roles might pose, how philanthropic he is, how much Trump might benefit from the tax-cut plan he signed and, perhaps most directly, how much or how little he’s paid in taxes. (Glimpses into leaked tax information obtained by the New York Times showed Trump claimed operating losses of $916 million in 1995, which would have protected him for up to 18 years’ worth of taxes.) It’s by no means certain that Trump’s personal returns would answer any of those questions.

5. How might Trump be forced to release his returns?

As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, can use a 1924 law to ask the U.S. Treasury secretary for the returns of any taxpayer -- including the president. (The Republicans who controlled Congress for most of the Trump presidency had this same power but showed no interest in using it.) Neal said he plans to make this request, pending discussions with his aides on the legal procedures to do so. With the returns in hand, the committee could then vote to release them -- or a summary of their findings -- to all 435 members of the House. That would effectively make the information contained in the returns, if not the returns themselves, public.

6. Would there be a fight?

Count on it. Republicans are prepared to say that Neal’s request is a political witch hunt, rather than legitimate government oversight. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could ask the Democrats to re-submit any request with a stronger argument. Or Mnuchin could slow-walk the release of documents. Democrats are likely to sue if there is a delay, raising the prospect of a protracted legal battle that could potentially drag on to or even after the 2020 presidential election.

No comments:

Post a Comment

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED. And neither will racist,homophobic, or misogynistic comments. I do not mind if you disagree, but make your case in a decent manner.