Tax returns of both public and private corporations are protected from IRS disclosure by Internal Revenue Code §6103. Historically, most arguments against public disclosure of tax information were aimed at personal returns. This article evaluates arguments both opposing and favoring company-specific public disclosure of corporate tax returns, focusing on public companies and federal government contractors. Among reasons against disclosure are the fear that (1) it will add to, rather than reduce, confusion about corporate accounting and tax practices, (2) compliance will be reduced as companies seek to hide details of their revenue and expenses, and (3) proprietary information, including trade secrets, will be disclosed. Among reasons favoring disclosure are the (1) results of a national survey, (2) improvement of tax compliance, (3) limited value of privacy given that it does not cover disagreements with the IRS that wind up in court, (4) fiduciary responsibility corporations owe to the public, and (5) tendency of increased transparency to intensify public pressure for tax reform. Based on this analysis, it is argued that the benefits to be gained by increasing disclosure—especially encouraging tax reform—outweigh the objections raised, which either lack empirical basis or may be met with available remedies.

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