A New Strategy on Transparency for Trump

Law Prof. Suggests States Release the President's State Tax Returns

Posted by Dale Eisman on April 12, 2017

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As progressive activists across the country, including many recruited by Common Cause, gear up for “Tax Day” marches on Saturday to pressure President Trump to release his federal income tax returns, a University of Chicago law professor is pushing a new strategy to force the president’s hand.

Daniel Hemel, who teaches tax law, argues in a Washington Post op-ed published today that legislatures in states where Trump has filed state tax forms could pass legislation requiring the release of the president’s returns.

There are tax marches on Saturday in more than 100 communities nationwide. Join your local march here.

“Trump’s New York state resident income tax returns show his salary, dividends, capital gains, rental real estate income and other income from all sources — including sources outside New York,” Hemel writes. “If Trump fills out a “Resident Itemized Deduction Schedule” — as most high-income individuals in New York do — he also reports his gifts to charity. And if he is using phantom losses from previous years to offset tax on his current-year income, then the New York state return shows that too.”

All that information also is found on federal returns, of course; its release would open a window on conflicts, and potential conflicts, between Trump’s responsibilities as president to serve the public interest and his personal interest in building his businesses and increasing his fortune.

Every modern president except Trump has released his taxes. Several state legislatures are considering bills that would require presidential candidates to release their tax information as a condition of having their names appear on state ballots. Common Cause is supporting that legislation and has called on Trump repeatedly to place his businesses in a blind trust; instead, the president put his two adult sons in charge of his real estate empire and created a trust that gives him access to his assets at any time.

Sign Common Cause’s petition to President Trump: Release Your Tax Returns

During the campaign, Trump indicated he was keeping his returns private because he was under a routine audit. But since the election, he has argued that his victory rendered the issue moot and the public is uninterested in his finances.

Hemel acknowledged that “skeptics might say that public disclosure of Trump’s state tax returns would violate the principle of taxpayer privacy. But Trump is no ordinary taxpayer. The public has a right to know whether its president is paying his fair share of taxes and whether he has financial conflicts of interest as commander in chief.”


Speaking of taxes, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is warning President Trump that by failing to release his returns he is lessening the chances that Congress will act this year on his tax reform proposal.

“It’s going to make tax reform much harder” if Trump doesn’t release his returns, Schumer argued Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.  As they review Trump’s tax reform plans, “the average American is going to say, ‘Oh, he’s not doing that because it’s good for me, he’s doing it because it’s good for him.’ So for his own good, he ought to make them public. And the big mystery is why he hasn’t,” Schumer said.

“I think he just has an obligation to come clean. When you clean up the swamp, it’s not keeping things secret and applies to yourself.”


Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Ethics

Tags: Executive Ethics

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