Connecticut leftists are promoting legislation that would let lawmakers request and receive copies of any residents’ tax return. 

Advocates for the bill are basing their case on “fairness and equality,” insisting that access to individuals’ financial information will help them improve tax policy from a progressive standpoint, i.e., claim more revenue from higher-income earners. 

The pro-free-market, Hartford-based Yankee Institute (YI) issued a policy brief on the legislation last week warning that its enactment would significantly compromise financial privacy.

“Union leadership and some progressive Democrats in the legislature have been targeting Connecticut’s top earners in order to rewrite the state’s tax code, arguing the rich pay too little in taxes compared to poor and working-class families,” YI analyst Meghan Portfolio wrote. “But allowing political leaders to access tax returns raises privacy concerns, not just for the rich, but for nearly anyone who files their taxes in Connecticut with the potential for that information to be leaked to the public.”

The provision on access to tax returns is one component of a bill that broadly deals with the analysis of tax information by the Department of Revenue Services. The measure is sponsored by State Representatives Josh Elliott (D-Hamden), Kate Farrar (D-West Hartford) and Michael Winkler (D-Vernon). It has been referred to the Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding and has not yet received a vote.

If the legislation is made into law, up to 10 members of the General Assembly will be able to view any Nutmegger’s tax return after submitting a request to the DRS commissioner. 

“Without access to this information, policy makers can only make educated guesses about how their judgements will move the needles on fairness and equality,” Connecticut AFL-CIO President Ed Hawthorne told the committee in written testimony. 

Other labor organizations, such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, have also been pushing for the bill’s consideration and passage.

YI has called the political impulse to access individuals’ tax documents “Nixonian.” 

“The push to disclose individual tax returns to members of the government has its roots in President Richard Nixon’s administration and his ‘enemies list,’ in which the administration sought to target their ‘enemies’ with tax audits and manipulating grants, federal contracts and prosecution,” Portfolio wrote. 

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association has criticized the legislation over the same privacy issues YI has raised. And so has DRS Commissioner Mark Boughton, who was himself appointed by liberal Gov. Ned Lamont (D). 

“This protected data is protected for a reason,” Boughton testified to the committee. “God forbid if any of that information got out into the public domain. There are social security numbers on their email addresses. And really, it undermines the whole system of full disclosure. So, when somebody fills out those tax documents for us, they trust that they’re going to be completely honest, and that their information isn’t going to be spread all over the internet. And unfortunately, that’s what happens.”

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Connecticut Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kate Farrar” by Connecticut House of Democrats, photo “Michael Winkler” by Connecticut House of Democrats and photo “Josh Elliot” by Connecticut House of Democrats.