IRS: Disclose what tax perks Members of Congress are giving themselves

tax-loopholes-lawmakersPresidential candidates typically release their tax returns as standard practice in the modern era, but most Members of Congress already in office keep their tax returns secret. Due to this lack of transparency, voters don’t know which special tax perks and loopholes that lawmakers are enjoying themselves. Given these elected leaders’ power to protect and enact tax laws, the public deserves to know what, if any, personal conflicts of interest are involved in their legislative decisions.

Therefore, the IRS should start releasing an annual summary of lawmakers’ tax returns. Senators and Representatives who wish to go further could certainly choose to do so and publish their own tax returns. This compromise would balance their privacy concerns as individual taxpayers with the public interests advanced by greater transparency.

According to Prof. Dorothy Brown at Emory Law School, as a practical matter such a report could also help build public pressure against tax loopholes enjoyed by the wealthy few — a group that includes most Congressional lawmakers.

For more information, see Prof. Brown’s piece at Forbes (2013): “10 Clever Ideas From Around the World to Root Out Inequality (Like Fining Extreme CEO Pay),” Yes! Magazine (2015); “Most members of Congress keep their tax returns secret,” McClatchy (2012).

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