Tuesday, October 20

So Much for Income Tax Privacy

by Jacob G. Hornberger

How many times have we been told that the information we send to the Internal Revenue Service in our federal income tax returns is guaranteed to be kept confidential?

So much for that myth, as President Trump can now attest. The New York Times somehow secured a copy of Trump’s income tax returns and is excitedly telling the world what they contain.

One thing is for sure: If the president of the United States can’t keep his income tax returns private, no one else can either.

From the very start of Trump’s quest for the presidency, the mainstream press has been obsessed with getting its hands on his tax returns. And from the very start, Trump refused to disclose them, which he has every right to do.

Trump took the position that his tax returns were none of anyone’s business. And he was right. HIs tax returns fell within his right of personal privacy. If people chose not to vote for him because of his refusal to disclose his tax returns, so be it. That would be their right. But that possibility didn’t abrogate Trump’s right of privacy.

Obviously, Trump’s position did not prevent him from winning the presidency. HIs tax returns were just not that important to millions of people who voted for him.

The New York Times’ decision to disclose Trump’s income tax returns reminds us of what a horrific disaster the adoption of the federal income tax was. Just think: For more than 125 years, Americans lived without a federal income tax. Everyone was free to keep everything he earned and decide for himself what to do with it.

During that time, the editorial board and reporters for the New York Times and other mainstream papers were not having conniption fits over the refusal of presidential candidates to reveal their income tax returns because, well, there were no income tax returns, given that there was no federal income tax.

One of the big reasons the Framers favored indirect taxes over direct taxes was that indirect taxes didn’t have the enormous intrusiveness into privacy that comes with direct taxes. If the Framers had proposed a federal income tax in the Constitution, there is no possibility that our American ancestors would have approved the Constitution and the federal government. Don’t forget, after all, that under the Articles of Confederation, which preceded the Constitution, the federal government had not been given the power to tax at all.

The Times and other mainstream papers are making a big deal out of Trump’s use of tax deductions and other tax-avoidance provisions of the massively thick IRS Code to avoid paying taxes. They are implying that he’s unpatriotic for not helping fund the welfare-warfare state that the income tax funds.

That’s ridiculous. It might be hypocritical given Trump’s ardent support for the welfare-welfare state but it’s certainly not unpatriotic to employ every tax avoidance provision in the book. After all, I’ll bet that the members of the Times’ editorial board and its big team of reporters and columnists do the same thing. They are just upset that they don’t do it as well as Trump.

I must say that I do find it ironic that while the mainstream press is celebrating the disclosure of Trump’s private tax returns, it is also failing to come to the defense of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, the men who disclosed the truth about the U.S. national security state to the world. In today’s topsy turvy world, it’s considered okay to violate the privacy of American citizens by publicly disclosing their income tax returns to the world. At the same time, it’s considered a grave crime to disclose the truth about the dark and sordid activities of the national security state that the income tax funds.

The best thing the American people could ever do is restore America’s founding principle of an income-tax free society and to repeal the dark and sordid welfare-welfare things that it funds.

Posted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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