“Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request…”–IRS Code 6103(f)
Another provision in our tax code, Section 7214(a), provides that “Any officer or employee of the United States acting in connection with any revenue law of the United States… who with intent to defeat the application of any provision of this title fails to perform any of the duties of his office or employment… shall be dismissed from office or discharged from employment and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $10,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years or both.”
“Taxes are what we pay for civilized society”… Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
Happy day after tax day. I paid mine. I like living in a “civilized society”, although there are things about our current condition that don’t seem too civilized to me. Like corporations that park their money overseas and don’t pay taxes. Like corporations that used their tax break windfalls to buy back their stock, pay dividends to shareholders, and don’t give raises to employees. Like our Commander in Chief who asserts—wrongly—that there is no law that compels him to turn over his returns to Congress. You may have noticed that he makes stuff up.
I have experience working in government and with helping to write laws. I was told that when written into law “shall” means “have to” and your response should be “will do”. There is no ambiguity or exceptions. Now the President and his minions are trying to figure out a way to wiggle out of the request from the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to turn over Mr. Trump’s tax returns. As you can see from the above they’d better be careful or be fired, pay a fine, and go to jail. It’s the law.
A lawyer once told me there are no laws, just good arguments. He has a point, but you can’t argue with shall. Richard Nixon once said: “when the president does it, it is not illegal.” Well, no. We all know how he ended up. Seems like the current Imperial President wants to take a page from Tricky Dick’s playbook.
Upon reflecting on the power of shall another shall occurs to me: the power of shall in the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome”. I hope so. Have to. Will do.