Lately various quarters have coalesced around the need for presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns. This includes not just the 23 Democratic candidates declared but the present occupant of the White House, the only presidential candidate or office-holder in 40 years to withhold his taxes from public view.
According to a scientific opinion poll released this month by Businesses for Responsible Tax Reform, this growing chorus includes a majority of the nation’s small-business owners — the sector of the economy known to create more jobs, spark more innovation and stabilize local communities more than the giant companies and corporations that overshadow them.
The national poll of 501 small-business owners shows that 62 percent support requiring presidential and vice-presidential candidates — and presidents — to release at least 10 years of tax returns. And not just their business returns — their personal returns as well. Even more telling, 45 percent of respondents say they strongly support this.
Practically to the decimal point, these numbers mirror viewpoints of the nation as a whole. Poll after poll suggests the majority of Americans have become increasingly indignant over the president’s stonewalling. Furthermore, they want to see concrete measures taken to ensure efforts to shirk this fundamental aspect of citizenship — no matter how disliked and groused about — will not become standard practice for those seeking the highest offices in the land.
Such measures are already being taken. To date, nearly 20 statehouses across the country have proposed legislation that would prohibit candidates who have refused to show their tax returns from being on the ballot. And in January, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo introduced the Presidential Tax Transparency Act of 2019, which would require disclosure of certain tax returns.
The Businesses for Responsible Tax Reform poll also found the majority (64 percent) of small-business owners support increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations — not surprising given that American small-business owners have never been the primary beneficiaries of either the tax code or recent efforts at tax reform.
This includes the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017. Federal lawmakers sold this as a boon for small businesses and their customer base — the middle class. Instead, large corporations and the wealthy reaped great rewards while the majority of small-business owners have seen no significant impact. The poll shows that 72 percent of entrepreneurs say the law has had no effect or a negative effect on their profitability.
The new tax law, according to the poll, did not help small companies invest in employees or their business, and I would venture it is safe to say most paid a fair amount more in taxes than the $0 Amazon paid on $11.2 billion in profits. They also shelled out more this year for legal and accounting advice to figure out the new tax law.
Small-business owners are too busy making our sandwiches, cleaning our clothes, caring for our children and providing vital services to play the role of lobbyists. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want a fair shake from the tax code and transparency from our leaders. As citizens, taxpayers and business owners, entrepreneurs want to know what benefits our elected officials are deriving from the laws they pass. After all, public servants are elected to serve the public, not to create laws and loopholes that benefit themselves and their donors.
Candidates, we showed you ours. Now show us yours.