AF Check

Massive amounts of debt were incurred waging the American Civil War. To help pay for the war, Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861. A tax was levied on incomes exceeding $800 and was not rescinded until 1872. This Act created most of what we now know as our modern tax system – the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was founded, the tax was progressive and some deductions were allowed. In 1913, the 16th Amendment passed allowing for a Federal income tax. #taxday #taxes @irs

taxes transparency trust

The Narrative: Taxes, Transparency and Trust

alternative FACTS. April 17, 2017

The Trump administration has taken the position that the President should not release his tax returns because “the people just don’t care”.  This narrative replaced the pre-election, “I am under routine audit, I will release my returns once the audit is complete”. However, this past weekend both may have been supplanted by the claim that winning the election somehow makes the President less accountable to the American people, not more.  The facts point in a different direction.  A Washington Post-ABC News poll released in January found that 74 percent of Americans — including 53 percent of Republicans — think Trump should make his tax returns public.  As recently as last week, in a Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll, 53 percent of Americans believe that Trump should be ‘required’ to release his tax returns.

So why do the tax returns matter? Perhaps the New Yorker’s Adam Davidson may have piqued your interest when he wrote about how the President helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.  Or, the case may have been laid out by the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s March 29, 2017 legal suit against the IRS over Trump’s tax returns, citing the many possible business ties Donald Trump has to Russian oligarchs.  Maybe you are concerned about tax reform and have heard about those Ethicists who warn that Trump’s complicated real estate holdings mean he’ll likely be directly impacted in a major way by any major changes to the tax code.  The Atlantic puts it this way, “as long as Trump continues to profit from his business empire—which he does whether or not he is nominally in charge— the possibility that outside actors will attempt to affect his policies by plumping up his pocketbook will remain very much in play.”

Ultimately, transparency and trust go hand in hand.

Weighing In

George W. Bush’s former chief White House ethics lawyer, Richard Painter, and Barack Obama’s former chief White House ethics lawyer, Norman Eisen make the argument that Trump’s taxes must be released before tax reform.  Maybe the most candid of warnings, “It’ll turn into ‘the art of the steal’ unless we know what taxes he pays and what breaks he uses”.

In 140 Characters (more or less)

Vanity Fair reports that “he may never release his tax returns, but thousands of marchers around the country got their message heard.” Trump’s tweets give Tax Day marchers at least part of what they wanted.

Fact-Check of the Day

Politifact Truth-O-Meter: President Barack Obama’s “tax audit exposes MILLIONS in offshore accounts stolen from taxpayers.” Conclusion: PANTS ON FIRE.

There is a fake news story circulating that former President Barack Obama somehow fleeced American taxpayers for millions of dollars and hid the money in offshore bank accounts using an alias. “Obama tax audit exposes MILLIONS in offshore accounts stolen from taxpayers,” read the headline on an April 4, 2017, post on FederalistTribune.com. Facebook users flagged the story for possibly being fake, as part of the social media site’s efforts to combat fake news. It is important to clearly note, the story is fake.

Nice work… stay vigilant.

The 4th & 5th Estate

Following pressure from the German government to do more about its “fake news” problem, Facebook is taking out full-page ads in newspapers in Germany providing 10 tips readers can use to detect fake news. The ads were printed last Thursday in several major German newspapers, including Bild, Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Die Welt. The ad’s tips include analyzing the headline and source URL, and looking for other stories on the topic.

Journalist Lara Setrakian’s TED talk is worth checking out.  She begins by recognizing that “something is very wrong with the news industry. Trust in the media has hit an all-time low; we’re inundated with sensationalist stories, and consistent, high-quality reporting is scarce.” She shares three ways we can fix the news to better inform all of us about the complex issues of our time.

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