Excessive Disclosure

Today TaxMama® wants to address some political craziness. This year’s presidential campaign is getting out of hand. On the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)  recently stated that a “reliable source” has revealed that Romney hasn’t paid federal income taxes in the past ten years. Kelly Phillips Erb, (otherwise known as TaxGirl) writes in her Forbes column that revealing such information about a citizen’s tax return is unlawful.  

Ask TaxMama 

Well My Friends,

How do you feel about this concept? Imagine if it were your private tax information that was bruited about on the Senate floor, on television, and in the general public arena. There are some very strong protections in Title 26 (the U.S. Tax Code) to protect the privacy of our tax information.

Kelly includes excerpts from a letter one CPA sent to IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman requesting that he prefer charges against the senator, who a government employee, for revealing privileged information. You may want to read this – it’s interesting intellectual fodder.

But here’s a twist on the question. Senator Reid is wrong on two counts. First, Romney did release his 2011 tax return. (In fact, it’s right there on the TaxHistory site I showed you yesterday.) Second, not only did Romney pay taxes each year – he paid over $3 million in each of the last two years that we can see.

So, here’s the twist on the question of whether Senator Reid is guilty of disclosing privileged information:

If the information he disclosed was utterly false, is he still guilty of revealing privileged information? After all, when he made the public disclosure, he believed it was true.

What do you think?

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about tax ethics and other tax issues, free. Where? Where else? At www.TaxMama.com.

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7 thoughts on “Excessive Disclosure

  1. Frank Webster says:

    Sorry, my comment was cut short by a phone call and it posted before I got back to it. The immunity I was referring to is Article I, Section 6, Clause 1, of the U.S. Constitution states in part, “for any Speech or Debate in either House, [senators and representatives] shall not be questioned in any other place.” The purpose of the clause is to prevent the arrest and prosecution of unpopular legislators based on their political views.”
    This has always meant that they get a free pass on anything that they say on the floor in session, it’s only when they say something not on the floor in session that can be sued or prosecuted.

    Frank W Webster, EA

  2. Teri Hunter-Smith says:

    I am disturbed about the way politicians this year are throwing out comments as if they are facts. A reliable source? Who is this person who has access to confidential information. To me, it amounts to slander. If it is proven to be false, I think Senator Reid should be brought up on slander and defamation of character charges. If it is proven to be true, I think Senator Reid’s source should be questioned regarding how they accessed confidential information – and they should be prosecuted for whatever laws they broke.

    Trust me, if Mitt Romney owed taxes and didn’t pay them, the IRS would be all over his case. If he legitimately avoided paying taxes through legal means, then the tax law needs to be re-written.

    I’m really disheartened by the class warfare that is taking over this election. Play by the rules, tell the truth, and win on your merits – not by slandering and lying about your opponent.

  3. Drew Hudgins says:

    Mitt is not breaking the law. If the law required candidates to release more years, then the law should be amended.

    In the past year, being wealthy has been so demonized that I don’t fault Romney for not releasing more. Most likely, it would make him a target for *being wealthy.* he is very wealthy but that is not, at least it should not be, an obstacle for running for the presidency.

    I would love to have that amount of cash and I believe in saving and investing — even if it means in off shore accounts (which is not illegal to do or have), (you bet I would do the same to my investments; it’s responsible and smart and that’s what the rich do: continue to invest their assets into generating more assets), but he’s painted in a corner. He is playing the game; he has provided what the law asks. If he were to show America how much wealth he has managed to accrue, he would be cast as an outlaw that is out of touch with the middle class, regardless of what the *laws* are.

  4. KD Smyth says:

    Mitt Romney wants to work for me then he and his VP need to cough up tax returns for a minimum of 6 years preferably more. I am sick and tired of politicians behaving as if we serve their needs and interest when it is they who are suppose to serve OURS. Period.

    Mitt’s in the game now he better be willing to play it- not change the rules.

    Harry Reid said that he got information on good source. Maybe its real or not. If it’s hearsay as Mitt claims then what laws were broken?

    This investigation into Reid is a joke. When its the Joker trying to scheme his way into office.

  5. Cheryl Biondolillo says:

    I believe Reid said he had been told by a source. He did not release knowledge directly about Mr. Romney’s returns for which he had direct knowledge. Had he disclosed information that he had seen on Mr. Romney’s return that would be a problem.

  6. TaxMama says:

    Hi Frank

    That was one of the points brought up in Kelly’s article.
    No, he is not exempt.

    It will be interesting to see how IRS Commissioner Shulman responds.


  7. Frank Webster says:

    Unfortunately Congress has exempted themselves from many of the laws that they have passes to govern the rest us us. Ried is exempt from

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