Why would anyone release their tax return?
It is interesting to see the Democrats demanding that Mike Bloomberg release his tax returns. If he has a brain in his head, he will refuse. Previously such demands have been made of President Trump and, in 2012, Mitt Romney. In fact, the Democrats were demanding that Romney release 10 years of returns, which he wisely chose not to do.
First, let me explain that, by law, what is on a tax return is between the filer and the Internal Revenue Service and is no one else’s business. In fact, it is no one else’s damned business. There are many excellent reasons for this. If there is something inexact or nefarious with the return, the IRS has auditors to discover it and punish the offender. High earners are their No. 1 concern and get the most scrutiny. EITC returns, where an estimated 30% of returns contain fraud, mistakes and over payments have been another big concern.
Most people have no clue how complex and convoluted the U.S. Tax Code is. For example, for many years Money Magazine presented a tax problem for tax preparers to solve. This make-believe case was so complicated that the Big 8 accounting firms would not touch it. However, each year about twenty small CPA firms or franchise H&R Block offices would take up the challenge.
The final answer depended upon how the return was prepared according to depreciation and other mitigating factors. Therefore, instead of a single answer, there was a range of answers. If the preparer had an answer within that range and the proper schedules and forms were used, they were judged correct.
H&R Block offices usually had the answer in the right range but were ruled incorrect because the tax people at Money Magazine claimed some of the measures H&R Block used were not according to the Tax Code (in Money’s opinion). A rebuttal from H&R Block attorneys was always included, stating that their method was accepted by the IRS and therefore was correct. That is how screwed up the tax code is. Even experts disagree about what it says.
If Trump, Romney, Bloomberg or Steyer were stupid enough to release their tax returns, there would be perpetual arguments. Detractors would say they should have used method B or C instead of method A and paid more taxes; and so forth. If the IRS has determined they paid the proper amount of taxes, then the issue is over. Or should be. However agitators and trouble makers would continue to complain ad nauseam and pick the returns apart.
The first case of a presidential candidate releasing their tax returns was George Romney in 1968. Magazines made a big deal about how much he gave to charity (over 30%) and investigated his entire life. No one needs such an invasion of privacy. Nixon was next in about 1970 and the AMT system resulted from that. Since then it has been a ritual for presidential candidates to release their tax returns to the voyeur press and public.
I would never want anyone else to look at my tax return and I have never made over the lowest of six figures in income. Anyone who would feel otherwise is either a braggart or an imbecile.
NEIL MITCHELL, Provo