Opinion: What to do with Trump’s tax returns – CNN | Vette Leader

Editor’s note: Edward J. McCaffery is the Robert C. Packard Trustee Chair in Law and Professor of Law, Economics and Political Science at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Fair Not Flat: How to Make the Tax System Better and Simpler and founder of the People’s Tax Page. The opinions expressed in this comment are his own. See more opinion at CNN.


Can it really be time for another Donald Trump tax return story?

We’ve walked this path before. Many times. Remember 2016 while Trumps First Presidential run when the man himself told us we would see his returns “once the exam was over.”? The audit seemed never-ending, and there was no way an audit would prevent him from releasing the tax returns.

Then there was former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who first subpoenaed Trump’s tax returns from accountant Mazars in 2019 and actually received them years later — and several legal cases.

The History of Trump’s Tax Return you jour is the culmination of another year-long struggle, this one with Congress. Since 2019, when Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, Richard Neal, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, has sought to bring Trump’s returns under legislation that gives him clear authority to do so. No judge — not even Trevor N. McFadden, the Trump lower court commissioner, who delayed the matter and baselessly suggested that Congress could, but should not, release the statements — has ever objected. But “plausible legal arguments” were never a necessity for Team Trump, and they’ve managed to pull things through 1,329 days since the committee requested the former president’s tax returns, almost as long as the American Civil War, as Congressman Bill has said Pascal emphasized.

And so the Supreme Court has finally – without comment or opposition – denied Trump’s request to block the release of his tax returns.

What now? Congress should get the feedback within a few days if it doesn’t already have it. But the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives only has a few weeks to do everything themselves. They could legally publish Trump’s statements. But this seems premature and vindictive at a time when Democrats are hoping against all hope to avoid a hasty and vindictive investigation by the new Republican House of Representatives.

On top of that, we more or less already know what’s in the tax returns, and “we” didn’t care much about it – let’s take “we” as the people who have little appetite for stories about the rich and well-advised escaping taxes , are not rich or well-advised themselves. The New York Times has been tireless in tracking down Trump’s tax information through journalistic means, publishing a detailed analysis of the former president’s tax returns over 20 years, showing that most years he paid little or no taxes.

The Manhattan Attorney’s case has argued that the Trump Organization engaged in clear and fairly blatant tax fraud by paying executives like Allen Weisselberg in untaxed, unreported forms, such as paying private school fees for his grandchildren. All of this is consistent with the Trump family’s decades of aggressive tax avoidance, dating back to the 45th President’s father, Fred, in the 1940s. The Trump Organization has routinely denied these allegations, saying they are all part of a Democrat “witch hunt.”

But as John Koskinen, the Internal Revenue Service commissioner under President Barack Obama, put it, “I don’t see what you’re going to learn that you don’t already know by looking at these returns.”

Trump has, in a sense, “won” again, as his delays and protests over the years, along with a slow drip of information mixed with a large dose of misinformation, have made us all not care much about his taxes at all things . Do the math with Trump’s tax fatigue.

But if nothing were done with Trump’s tax returns, it would be a missed opportunity. The whole saga cries out for reform. In arguing for access, the House Ways and Means Committee relied heavily on its role in overseeing the Executive Branch’s administration of tax laws and on its legislative responsibilities. Both are linked today as there are – or should be – pressing questions about what the administrators are doing and what new legislation is needed.

Because all Americans should be able to agree on this: Something is wrong with a system in which a billionaire president cannot pay taxes. Either that’s not legal and someone should hold him or her accountable, or it’s legal and the laws should change. We need to be more careful of the watchdogs enforcing the current law, and we need to take a closer look at that law itself.

Since 1977, all presidential and vice presidential tax returns have been subject to annual audits. What have these audits revealed of Trump’s return? Has Team Trump been pushed to defend all of their tax positions? Have adjustments been made? Why or why not? What about previous investigations into Trump and his family? Why was your rather clumsy tax planning – alleged fraud in the Weißelberg case – not checked for decades? Why did it take the Manhattan Attorney’s Office to find out what the IRS didn’t find? These are questions Congress should ask.

And if nothing unusual emerges when examining the enforcement of our tax laws in Trump’s case, what does that tell us about the tax law itself that the wealthy can circumvent so easily?

In other words, perhaps the lessons to be learned here are not about Trump, but about us and our tax system. Maybe it’s time to get beyond Trump and our conspiratorial fantasies about what’s on his tax returns. We can transcend the petty, the past, the personal and look to a future that can be better for all of us. Trump’s tax returns provide a valuable and important case study for thinking about how to fix the whole damn thing. This is how we should use them.

Of course, don’t expect that to happen in six weeks or after six weeks unless House Republicans cooperate on the mission or the Senate can somehow pick up the game. We’ll likely wait more than the length of another civil war before we see any real change in how the wealthy are taxed — a problem that predates Trump and will likely postdate him and all of us.

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