Why We Ask to See Candidates’ Tax Returns
Photo Boston — Lost in the debate over Donald J. Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns is the story of where the custom of disclosure comes from — and why it can be so valuable as a measure of character. It’s a tale of presidential tax shenanigans, political scandal and one of the most famous quotations in American history: Richard M. Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” The story begins in July 1969, when Congress eliminated a provision of the tax code that had allowed a sitting or former president to donate his papers to a public or nonprofit archive in exchange for a very large tax deduction. In his taxes for 1969, President Nixon indicated that four months before Congress acted, he had donated more than 1,000 boxes of documents to the National Archives. The write-off didn’t become public until 1973, when it was mentioned in passing during a lawsuit related to the Watergate break-in. Had Nixon really beaten the deadline? No single comment would stick more firmly to Nixon.
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