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Editorial: Force the release of candidates' tax returns

Editorial: Force the release of candidates' tax returns

Returns reveal potential conflicts, pattern of activity
Editorial: Force the release of candidates' tax returns
Protester at Tax Day March demanding that President Trump release his tax returns in 2017
Photographer: Heidi Besen / Shutterstock.com

If President Trump thinks congressional Democrats are on a political witch hunt over their attempts to get at his tax returns, he’ll be absolutely apoplectic when he finds out what might be in store for him in Albany.

Members of the Democratic majorities in the state Assembly and Senate have concocted legislation to force the release and publication of the president’s state tax returns.

Tax documents can provide valuable information to the public. Besides revealing overall wealth, tax documents can reveal information about the individual’s personal and business activities, letting the public know who might be in a position to influence the elected official and uncover any potential conflicts of interest that could expose or foreshadow corrupt activities. 

They also reveal whether candidates have been paying their fair share of taxes, what loopholes they’re taking advantage of to avoid paying taxes, and how the candidate might benefit from certain tax policies they support.

The disclosure of tax returns is a demonstration of the candidate’s transparency and integrity. And many politicians, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, regularly release their returns. 

President Trump is rare among today’s politicians in his refusal to do so.

But that could soon change, as state lawmakers have bills that would force more politicians to reveal their returns.

One bill (A4493/S32A) would require candidates for president and vice president to turn over five years worth of returns to the state Board of Elections in order to qualify for the New York ballot. Another (A1390/S2271) would cover all candidates whose name might appear on a statewide ballot, including those running for governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general, the two U.S. Senate seats, and president and vice president (providing they file New York state tax returns).

Personal information such as Social Security numbers, home addresses and names of dependents would be redacted before release.

Another bill (S5072) would require the state to release an individual’s state tax returns upon the request of any of the chairs of three congressional committees. Since Trump is from New York, the congressional committees would be able to request his state returns.

Of course, these efforts will be viewed as political. The best way for Democrats in state government to absolve themselves of such accusations is to apply their legislation to candidates from any political party and to themselves.

Any candidate for state or federal office should have no problem releasing their tax returns — that is unless they have something to hide.

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