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Can McInnis Release Tax Forms and Protect Partners' Privacy?

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On Wednesday, the Colorado Independent was the first news organization to ask Colorado gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis' campaign what McInnis meant when he said on Fox Radio April 15 that he'd take a "beating" if he released his income tax returns.

McInnis, you recall, said on the radio: "So I'm not going to invite myself to my own beating. I mean, let em [garbled words]. I'm going to give what I think the people want, not what The Denver Post wants."

The Independent reported Wednesday that McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy said that McInnis' statement was a reference to the "beating" the Republican candidate would take from his business partners for releasing their personal income information, which would allegedly be included on McInnis' income-tax forms.

The Independent quoted James Vander Laan, a certified public accountant, who stated that the individual partnership income of all partners is not listed on K-1 forms, which are used to report partnership income, just the individual's total. But the individual's percentage of all the partnership's income categories is listed. So the total income of the firm could be calculated from the information provided on an individual partner's K-1 form.

Presented with this information by the Independent, Duffy emailed the Independent that this was the reason the forms were not released to the public.

But the Independent didn't ask Vander Laan if McInnis could simply redact the information about the percentage of the partnership's income that McInnis earned, thereby making it impossible to determine the total income of the firm from looking McInnis' K-1 form.

"Absolutely," Vander Laan told me. "It would be pretty easy to take a black Marks-A-Lot and cover it up, wouldn't it?"

Vander Laan added that McInnis could document his partnership income without releasing his K-1 form at all.

"Actually that information goes on a schedule in your 1040 that's called Schedule E," Vander Laan told me. "By the time it hits Schedule E, you can no longer see ownership percentage. That doesn't appear on Schedule E."

News outlets should follow up, asking McInnis if he would be willing to take these steps and possibly others, if required, to protect the privacy of his business partners and avoid a "beating" by them, if he releases his income tax returns.