By Sam Brunson
At this point, it’s pretty clear that the norm of presidential candidates (and, presumably, presidents) releasing their tax returns to the public is dead and buried. Sure, it’s been on life support for some time now (I mean, a significant number of candidates in this race released weak disclosures at best), but Trump’s election without having ever released his returns clearly demonstrates that flouting this particular norm is not a bar to election.
On election day I wrote that Congress should require disclosure from presidential candidates (and, at this point, I would expand that to sitting presidents and vice-presidents), and provided a handful of ideas about how such legislation should look. But my previous post suffers from one significant weakness: I assumed that disclosure was a good thing, without explaining why. Continue reading “Revisiting Presidential Tax Return Disclosure”
By: David J. Herzig
Politico reported yesterday that “Isaac Lanier Avant, chief of staff to Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Democratic staff director for the Homeland Security Committee, allegedly did not file returns for the 2009 to 2013 tax years.”
According to the Department of Justice Press Release, Mr. Avant has been a staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2002. In 2005, he filed a form with “his employer that falsely claimed he was exempt from federal income taxes. Avant did not have any federal tax withheld from his paycheck until the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mandated that his employer begin withholding in January 2013.”
This seemingly innocent story might get more torrid. For starters, missing from the press release by Justice is that, as Richard Rubin pointed out to me, Mr. Avant’s employer was Congress. Do you hear the can of worms opening? I mean, who at payroll in Congress is green-lighting the stopping of withholding? What did his form look like? Did he make up an official and name it – W-NONE? How many other staffer’s did this? How did he never get audited? According the the press release and the story, Mr. Avant did not file tax returns for 5 years; I guess a matching program would not catch anything since he had no withholding. But, one would think Congress would at least ensure that every employee has filed a tax return.
Not sure which awesome tax protester argument he is going with. Personally, I hope it is that he is a sovereign citizen. It would be great if the Democratic staff director of Homeland Security thought the U.S. laws did not apply to him. I guess we will have to wait for the actual complaint. For those interested, the IRS has outlined numerous frivolous tax arguments.
[UPDATE 8/24/16 at 8:41 pm: It appears that a claim of Sovereign Citizen might really be in play. According to the Panolian, a local Batesville, Mississippi newspaper, Mr. Avant is the son of Vernice Black Avant and the late Robert Allen Avant Sr. In 2011, according to the Panolian, Mr. Avant’s mother, who is also a court clerk, filed an “11-page ‘Affidavit of Truth'” “declaring that she is a “freeborn Sovereign” are meant to distinguish her as an individual, distinct from a corporation.” “The affidavit cites participation in the use of bank accounts, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, vehicle license plates and tax returns as ‘under duress.'”]