• By The Financial District


As Donald Trump fights to keep his tax and business records from Manhattan prosecutors it’s time to alert Americans that tax returns used to be public. Congress could make them public again. If it did every honest taxpayer would benefit, David Cay Johnston wrote in his DCReport for Raw Story.

In 1924, how much the rich paid the taxman was front-page news. Newspapers back then published lists that revealed who was really rich (John D Rockefeller stands out) and those who were either poseurs claiming great wealth yet paying little tax or were likely tax cheats who failed to report their income fully.

“Strong evidence exists that Trump is both a poseur and a cheat, as we’ve shown again and again at DCReport since we published Trump’s 2005 income tax return three years ago. Under Trump, the odds are just one in 84,000 that the IRS will recommend prosecution for tax crimes, an all-time low. Cheating is easy for people so rich who own corporations outright thanks to Congress, which since not long after 1924 has wrapped tax returns in extreme secrecy. That secrecy is a huge boon to rich business owners lacking in scruples and the opposite of how Congress treats workers, pensioners and most stock market investors,” Johnston said in his DCReport published by Raw Story on September 17, 2020.

“What struck me while reviewing the secrecy issue was that restoring the law from 1924 would have saved our country a lot of pain, allowed prosecutors to do their work efficiently, and ended any doubt about whether Trump is an honest taxpayer or a criminal tax cheat who belongs behind bars. Just peeling back part of the tax secrecy wrapper could go a long way to make our tax system fair while discouraging crooked tax filings. Under existing law, the tax returns of corporation owners like Trump are untouched, unless the IRS audits. If not, whatever the business owner puts down is accepted as accurate. It’s a system that invites cheating. Reports and studies by the IRS, the Taxpayer Advocate, the Government Accountability Office, experiments designed by economists and tests devised by state governments all show that integrity in taxes requires independent verification and enough audits to make the least honest comply out of fear of prosecution,” he argued.

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