Every major party nominee has released his or her tax returns since Gerald Ford, who still released a tax summary in 1976 in lieu of his full returns. Trump is using his unconfirmed IRS audit as a phony excuse to not release his tax returns, but that didn’t stop Richard Nixon, of all people, who voluntarily released his under-audit returns as president in 1973.
There are a number of possibilities why Trump refuses to release his returns. Here are a few:
- Trump’s returns would show he dishonestly manipulated–and possibly broke– the law to avoid paying income tax. Documents obtained by the New York Times show that in the early 1990s Trump avoided claiming hundreds of millions in taxable income through a “tax avoidance maneuver so legally dubious his own lawyers advised him that the Internal Revenue Service would most likely declare it improper if he were audited.” Completetax returns from additional years would likely show that Trump has used similarly dishonest and potentially illegal methods to avoid paying income tax.
- Trump’s returns would show that he’s rarely paid any income tax at all. Trump admitted in the second debatethat he didn’t pay federal income taxes for decades. We know Trump paid no income taxes in at least five of the past forty years — 1978, 1979, 1984, 1991, and 1993 — and the $916 million loss he reported on his 1995 taxreturns could have exempted him from paying taxes for up to 18 years. It’s more likely than not that Trump hasn’t paid a dime in federal income taxes in well over a decade.
- We’d also gain a much better understanding of Trump’s true net-worth if he releases his returns; and that’s got to scare him, because all estimates point to it being far less than he claims. Trump’s bragged he’s worth more than $10 billion — but Bloomberg recently pegged his real net-worth at around $3 billion, so about 30% of what he’s claimed it to be, suggesting yet another Trump lie that he’d really hate to see be debunked publicly. Trump’s predicated his entire campaign on his business acumen; if his grandiose claims were debunked it would completely undermine the foundation of his candidacy.
- And then there are the charitable donations — or near total lack thereof. According to a Washington Post investigation of Trump’s charitable giving, the self-proclaimed $10-billion-dollar man donated a measly $10,000 to charity since 2008 while engaging in self-dealing and paying-off politicians with funds from his charitable foundation. If Trump has donated more to charity from his own pocket, we won’t know the amount unless he releases his returns; but all signs point to little to no charitable giving in any given year.
We now know that Trump lost one billion dollars in a single year, and may have gone nearly two decades without paying any taxes at all (a move he’d call “smart”). With that information already public, Trump’s continued refusal to release his full tax returns begs the question – what information in the remaining returns is so bad that he’s still set on hiding it?
One thing is clear – voters aren’t taking well to Trump’s refusal to release his returns. A recent CNN poll indicates that 8-in-10 Trump supporters believe that paying taxes is a “civic duty.” With under a week before election day, Trump’s refusal to release his full tax returns demonstrates he’s unqualified to be president.