BOSTON (CBS) – Nobody likes paying taxes, or at least I never met anyone who did. But most people accept the reality that, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes,” and we pay them as honestly as we can, however grudgingly. One survey earlier this year found just six-percent of us say we have knowingly cheated on our taxes, and I bet most of the 94-percent who didn’t would say it’s a matter of civic duty.
Which brings us to President Trump, who appears to harbor a very different attitude toward paying his taxes. We don’t know for sure, because he has famously refused to do what most top politicians routinely do and publicly release his tax returns as a pre-requisite for wielding great power. But now, thanks to the New York Times, we have some insight into why.
In an exhaustively-researched story published Tuesday the New York Times documents how Mr. Trump engaged in “dubious tax schemes” that sometimes appeared to constitute “outright fraud” in his family business dealings over the decades before becoming president. It is a mind-blowing road map into the myriad of tricks the wealthy and unscrupulous can and do use to avoid paying their fair share. Tax officials in New York State say they’re investigating, and while the White House is dismissing the story, they’re also not specifically refuting its findings.
Donald Trump wouldn’t be the first prominent person to cheat the government and other taxpayers this way. But alleged fraud like this tells you plenty about the character of the person who commits it. That’s why we need to see their tax returns before we hand politicians the keys to the country.