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Opinion
Noah Smith

Public Tax Returns? No, Just Those of the Well-Off

Disclosure would discourage cheating and give better insight into the extent of U.S. inequality.

No secrets.

No secrets.

Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s reluctance to make his income-tax returns public recently caused a minor fracas within the Democratic Party. Eventually, he capitulated, and the world discovered that Sanders makes about a half-million dollars a year. This revelation is unlikely to cost Sanders support among voters — after all, Sanders’s policies would raise taxes on people like himself, meaning he’s the opposite of a hypocrite. And Sanders contrasts favorably with President Donald Trump, who still resolutely refuses to make his own tax returns public.

But the controversy around Sanders’s and Trump’s tax returns raises an interesting question — should everyone’s tax returns be public?