Daniel Hemel: Despite Trump's Supreme Court Loss, We Won't See His Tax Returns Before the Election

Trump lost at the Supreme Court, but we still won’t see his taxes by November

The Supreme Court’s twin rulings Thursday in cases involving President Trump’s financial records virtually assure that the 45th president will succeed in shielding his tax returns from the public until after the November election. This is a remarkable feat for a president whose six immediate predecessors all released their returns while in the White House. How did Trump pull it off?

In typical Trumpian fashion, he did it, in part, by lying outright. Trump said in May 2014 that he would “absolutely” release his returns if he ran for president, which proved to be absolutely false. But he couldn’t have done it alone. The president also received substantial aid from others — including some Democrats — who made it possible for him to hide his tax documents from the American people, Thursday’s Supreme Court rebuke notwithstanding.

Presidents releasing their tax returns to the nation had become a 40-year-old bipartisan tradition by the time Trump entered the Oval Office in January 2017. The practice served several functions. It assured Americans that taxes were not only for “the little people” — we knew that when we paid up, our leaders did, too. It allowed us to assess whether presidents pursued tax policies that were in the national interest or their own, and it gave us insight on possible financial conflicts that might cloud their judgment. It also served as a check on the Internal Revenue Service, which is in the uncomfortable position of auditing its own boss. When President Richard Nixon was in office, the IRS overlooked improper deductions that allowed Nixon to reduce his tax bill by hundreds of thousands of dollars. In making their returns available for public inspection, later presidents reduced the risk that they might receive favorable treatment from the agency.

So the three Republican and three Democratic presidents before Trump released their returns. And just as it took a bipartisan effort to entrench the practice, it took bipartisan inaction to unravel it.

Read more at The Washington Post

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