Secrecy Threatens Chance for Tax Justice

Colleen Ross
April 13, 2017

President Trump and Republican Congressional leadership have given themselves an August deadline to pass tax reform legislation. As that debate nears, it is unconscionable that President Trump continues to refuse to release his tax returns. We cannot have our elected officials passing laws that may personally enrich themselves or serve foreign interests without disclosing that information to the public.

We at NETWORK often say “the budget is a moral document” to advocate for funding federal programs that provide for the common good and work to mend the gaps. The reverse, however, is also true. The way we fund the budget, our tax code, is a moral declaration.

The tax code demonstrates what sources we decide to collect revenue from and their rates, as well as what escapes taxation. For an in-depth look at the individual, corporate, and other taxes used to raise revenue, read NETWORK’s guide “We the Taxpayers.” We cannot fund responsible programs – such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) – without reasonable revenue, and equally important, that revenue must be raised through tax policies that are transparent, fair, and equitable. Ultimately, the tax code must not widen the income or wealth gap in our nation.

Much of our current tax code fails in that regard. Corporate tax loopholes and tax breaks for wealthy individuals have contributed to growing economic inequality in our nation over the years. Today, we are not mending the gaps with a progressive tax code, and signs of future tax reform do not look promising. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “Better Way” plan proposed additional tax cuts that would disproportionally benefit the top 1%, while President Trump’s recently scrapped tax plan would also benefit our country’s highest-income households the most.

We understand that paying taxes supports our national interests and promotes the common good. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” In the past, NETWORK members and friends have boldly proclaimed our Taxpayer Pride for government services ranging from student loans to public transportation.

This year, as we approach Tax Day, we call on President Donald Trump to have Taxpayer Pride and to release his tax returns. We also urge the president and members of Congress to support tax reforms that would ensure large multinational corporations pay their fair share and close loopholes that encourage corporations to shift jobs and profits overseas. It’s time for our nation to get closer, not farther away from Tax Justice!

Sister Simone Campbell will be at the Washington, DC Tax March on Saturday, April 15, 2017 to call on President Trump to release his tax returns. See more details about the DC march, or other local marches here: