The president, like most other American citizens, must pay taxes and file a tax return. The same laws that govern American taxpaying citizens apply to the president. If he has too little withheld, he could end up owing money to the IRS. If he has too much withheld from his paycheck, he could get a refund.
President Lincoln, for example, overpaid his taxes by $1,250 (big money, especially back then), but this wasn’t discovered until sometime after his assassination. As a side note, the first income tax laws were passed during the Civil War, and judging from written accounts, the new rollout had a lot of kinks.
A lot has changed since then—or has it? Filing taxes today seems just as complicated as it was back then, despite efforts to simplify the process, such as passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the jury’s still out on that one).
Even though the president must file a tax return, he isn’t required to share information on his tax return with the public. That’s because the president is protected by the same laws that protect you and me. Seems fair enough, sort of.
You might recall talk in the news about President Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. As it turns out, he has every right to keep his tax return information private. The IRS can’t release income tax returns of any elected officials—including the president.
On the flip side, it’s been the norm for presidents, since the 1970s, to share their tax returns with the public.
No matter how you feel about taxes, or the presidents who pay them, one thing’s certain: We’re all in this together.