Reporters Are Focusing on the Wrong Set of Tax Returns
The breathless coverage over the Supreme Court decision requiring disclosure of President Trump’s financial records demonstrates the continued focus on the wrong set of tax returns. While spending years speculating wildly on the contents of Trump’s financial records, both the liberal media and congressional Democrats have ignored an important story hiding in plain sight: The legally questionable tax maneuverings of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
While allowing Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. to subpoena the president’s records in a criminal probe of Trump’s businesses, seven justices demanded additional scrutiny of congressional subpoenas for similar documents. As one report described it, the justices believed lower federal courts “did not do enough to examine Democratic lawmakers’ claims that they needed the records as part of inquiries aimed at strengthening laws combating a wide range of ills including money laundering, official conflicts of interest, and foreign influence in U.S. elections.”
That bar could present a significant obstacle for congressional Democrats. Even as party leaders indefatigably pursue Trump’s tax returns, they have scrupulously avoided answering legitimate questions about Biden’s, raising questions about their motives.
Biden Avoided Self-Employment Taxes
One year ago, Biden and his wife released tax returns covering 2016 through to 2018. At that time, the Wall Street Journal noted that, by characterizing more than $13 million of income from speaking and writing engagements as profits from two corporations rather than wage income, the couple avoided paying nearly $500,000 in self-employment taxes. Tax experts interviewed by the WSJ called the scheme “pretty aggressive” and unjustified given that the income came from their own work product, as opposed to any product or service created by a larger corporation.
The development raises several fundamental questions about Biden and his campaign. First, hypocrisy. During the primaries, Biden released campaign ads claiming “Obamacare is personal to me.” Biden and Democrats want to highlight their supposed support for Obamacare and individuals with pre-existing conditions during the fall campaign.
Of the 3.8 percent self-employment tax the Bidens avoided, 0.9 percent funds Obamacare, and the other 2.9 percent funds Medicare. As a result, Biden’s tax scheme allowed him to avoid paying $119,570 in Obamacare taxes, and another $385,280 in Medicare taxes. How can Biden claim to support Obamacare when he refused the opportunity to put his money where his mouth is and dodged the very taxes that fund the law?
Second, policy. Throughout the presidential primaries, Biden claimed that, unlike those of his Democratic competitors, his health care plan would not require a middle-class tax increase but would be funded instead by wealthy taxpayers. Yet Biden’s tax situation raises the obvious question of whether other wealthy individuals will engage in the kind of evasive maneuvers Biden used to skirt Obamacare taxes so they can avoid his new tax increases, leaving the middle class holding the bill.
Third, partisanship. The House Ways and Means Committee sued last year to obtain President Trump’s tax returns, claiming that it wants to examine the integrity of the auditing process the IRS used. But despite multiple experts calling the Biden’s tax maneuvers legally questionable, Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has avoided answering questions about whether he will request an audit of Biden’s returns.
The fact that Neal and his colleagues have not pursued credible allegations against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee suggests the pursuit of Trump’s returns is a mere partisan political exercise. This one-sided examination of tax records, coupled with the Supreme Court’s rulings, may present legal obstacles, as Democrats now must attempt to defend their actions, and motives, in court.
‘Middle-Class Joe’ Is a Bunch of Malarkey
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there’s the issue of authenticity. The individuals shown in Biden’s campaign videos praising Obamacare are likely unaware Biden failed to pay taxes used to fund the law. They, and other working-class individuals like them, may not take kindly to “Middle-Class Joe” failing to pay nearly $500,000 in self-employment taxes — more than many working-class Americans will make in a decade.
Over the years, Biden has repeatedly used a simple phrase: “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll show you your values.” But when it came time for him to “cash in” following years in the public sector, Biden’s personal budget didn’t include hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to pay for the Obamacare law he claims to value.
If the press wants to talk about tax returns, they should ask Biden about the yawning chasm between his claims and the values he expressed in his tax returns.
This post was originally published at The Federalist.