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The Supreme Court and Trump’s Tax Returns

This week, the Supreme Court delivered a historic blow to the president’s efforts to avoid federal tax audits. The high court ruled that the IRS must obtain a search warrant before it can obtain President Trump’s tax information by subpoena, because the president “exceeded his authority.”

The federal tax laws are crystal clear in demanding that government agencies comply with the Fourth Amendment and afford “probable cause” before they can access private information. Failure to do so violates the Constitution.

The Washington Post reported earlier this year that, according to the president’s tax returns, Trump made a net profit of $153 million from 2010 to 2014. From 2015 to 2017, this net worth ranged from $1.3 billion to $3.5 billion.

In the last four years, President Trump has amassed a significant fortune. But so far, his tax returns have refused to reveal how his huge net worth stacks up against his taxes. It should surprise no one that Trump is entitled to an explanation from the IRS for why they cannot access his tax information.

The administration has provided little explanation for why that is the case. There are many questions: What is going on? Is there a reason not to release the returns that is beyond scrutiny? Why won’t Trump submit them? Why does the president continue to refuse to comply with federal law?

Trump even reportedly had back-up financial information prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), another company that provides work for his administration. It was reportedly submitted on the president’s behalf, including tax records from 1995-2000.

According to The New York Times, PwC’s work was only for Trump’s personal taxes. It was not done for his business. On March 28, PwC had a document prepared for taxpayers who value up to $5 million. The document reportedly shows a modified 1040 on Form W-2, presidential bonus tax, and interest income form signed and dated by Donald Trump. The document also includes an IRS letter titled “Request for Tax Return Request.”

If nothing else, an analysis of the White House leak reveals that PwC is a well-connected firm and that their work for the Trump administration is leaking. That’s not surprising given that the firm’s CEO and former chairman has given $500,000 to Republican campaigns, including $100,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee.

Warrants have proven an effective deterrent to extortion in federal courts. There is no reason they should not prove effective for obtaining Trump’s tax information.

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