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Having recently filed my own taxes, I was intrigued to read in the news that President Biden released his own federal and state income tax returns. The state return was his home state of Delaware. Which got me to thinking: since when is the president above the law? Stay with me here. Virtually all state tax laws provide that all residents must pay tax AND any nonresidents who earn income from performing services within said state. See for example NYS Tax Law section 631.

Presidents certainly work in DC, but their job function takes them all over. Speaking at the UN (in New York), inspecting flood ravaged areas in Mississippi, speechifying in Illinois to rally support for his legislative agenda, etc. In other words, presidents perform their job in a lot of states each year. So why file only a Delaware state return? Yes, Biden resides there, but what of all the states where he is nonresident and performed services?

When I was a partner, because the law treats individual partners and the partnership without distinction (according the attributes of one to the other), I had to file tax returns in the approximately 40 states where my firm did business. A baseball player files in all the states where he lives AND where, though a nonresident, he plays games, meaning the over-20 states that have MLB franchises. Entertainers file in the multiple states where they perform in the course of their nationwide touring. Even my favorite supermarket cashier, Fred, who works in my NY-based store, occasionally is called upon to work in the Mahwah, New Jersey store; Fred (as required) files in both states.

Now it may make sense to pass a law stating that the president should not be so encumbered. Try as I might, I could find no such law. Nor is this directed at President Biden. NONE of our presidents have complied with the tax laws as far as I could tell. Not Trump, not Obama, Bush, et. al., back to when the modern state income tax laws were first promulgated (around the time of the Wilson administration). So not only should the current chief executive be forced to comply, so should all the formers. Note, in cases of non-filing of tax returns, there is no statute of limitations. We could go back to all the former presidents, or their estates in cases of the deceased ones, to compel compliance with the law.

Something to chew on; happy to do my bit of public service.


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