For the third consecutive year, law-abiding taxpayers prepare to file their own taxes without any assurance that the President is paying his. Indeed, we have reason to think he is not. His former fixer Michael Cohen says Trump called the IRS “stupid” for giving him a $10 million refund a decade ago. An exposé in the New York Times last year revealed a pattern of audacious tax fraud stretching even further back.
The President’s tax chicanery isn’t simply a Trumpian character flaw (though it appears to be a trait that, like his vast fortune, he inherited from his father Fred). It’s a serious problem for the U.S. tax system. That system, after all, depends largely on voluntary compliance, and voluntary compliance depends upon public confidence. Trump erodes that confidence when he gives off the impression — rightly or wrongly — that the man on top is paying less than those at the bottom.
Any other President in the past 40 years would have allayed these concerns by releasing his own returns, as every Oval Office occupant since Jimmy Carter has. Trump has brushed off demands that he do the same with excuses that don’t add up.
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