Let’s talk Donald Trump’s taxes, because if Trump is elected President of the United States, that as well as his many other fiscal secrets will be all anyone everyone will be talking about for years to come.
Unlike any other nominee for the presidency during the past 40 years, Trump has declined to release his tax returns. He uses the phony argument that he can’t because he is being audited.
Trump’s returns from 2002 through 2008 can be released without an issue—all audits related to them are over. But he wants to make-believe or lie that turning over records more than 10 years old will somehow upset a present audit.
Let’s not pretend: Trump is hiding something.
- Is he a tax cheat?
- Does he give little or nothing to charity?
- Does he get income from investments in Ukraine and Russia?
Who knows? He has a complicated collection of:
- Private corporations;
- Holding companies;
- Other investments.
America does not know if he is a joint investor with seedy characters (he has been before) or what financial inducements drive him. So just think of the day after Trump is elected president. If there is a Democratic majority in the Senate which appears likely; the first subpoena out of a congressional committee will be for his tax returns.
Whatever dirty secrets they cover will come spilling out. The next set of subpoenas will be for the Trump Organization, the various partnerships and family trusts controlled by Trump and his private company, and every other shred of financial data he is hiding.
Normally, those subpoenas might be seen as fishing expeditions, except in Trump’s case, it will be vital oversight of the executive branch. No one would be able to know if Trump travels to Russia to continue his game of BFF with Putin because he is acting in the interest of the United States or because he is in a financial deal with the Russian dictator or some of his oligarch pals.
The Trump Organization and Foundation is private as well as secretive. It puts money directly into his pockets and his kids’ pockets.
- How much? We don’t know.
- From where? We don’t know.
Is the financial benefit Trump receives from the Trump Organization shaping his foreign policy proposals, as unclear as they are? We don’t know.
Lied about tax returns
Now dig into Trump’s lie about why he can’t release his tax returns. Pretend the audit argument is genuine. Fine. Let him keep them secret.
Instead, just release the first 2 pages of his Form 1040, plus his 1-page Schedule A dating back to, say, 2006. Ten years should be enough. These documents are just a summary of his tax returns, could not affect any audit. The only thing these three pages reveal is the bottom line; they are like the back-cover description of a book. Even if Trump insists he must keep the metaphorical book hidden, he can at least tell us what it’s about.
What can be learned?
Here’s what we would learn from those three pages:
- Trump’s gross, adjusted gross and net income by type;
- Total claimed deductions;
- Effective federal tax rate;
- Total amount he paid in taxes;
- Total charitable contributions (since he brags about that so much, he should be willing to reveal them;
- Amount he paid in state and local taxes, by type.
That information would resolve some of the big questions about Trump and his finances.
Trump could also release two other documents without affecting any audit. Trump has yet to prove he is being audited. He could simply release the letter the IRS sends to notify taxpayers their returns are being examined. If it exists, why won’t he release it?
Trump can also make public a sworn affidavit identifying his investors and business partners, as well as his financial relationships with them. It is all likely going to come out through subpoena when he is president; why not let the American people know the answers now?
As we move closer to the election in November, perhaps those reporters following Trump on the campaign trail are going to start recognizing he can release those three pages from his taxes, the audit letter and the affidavit without causing a ripple at the IRS audit office. If they really want to do their jobs, they will start pressing Trump for those documents, and his excuses will put the lie to this “I’m under audit” nonsense. Press will soon come to realize that the secrets and potential conflicts hidden in Trump’s finances are far more important than whether Clinton met with a Nobel Prize winner who contributed to the Clinton Foundation when she was Secretary of State—as the Associated Press recently huffed and puffed in what was easily the worst article of the election year.
If there is something troublesome about Trump’s businesses and personal finances, Americans need to know now, rather than waiting to discover later if that hidden information will set off the beginnings of another impeachment when the curtain is pulled back. Running for president is not a game. The White House is not some trophy anyone should be allowed to grab without revealing basic information. Reporters, Democrats and even Republicans should demand that Trump release at least those 3 pages, the letter and the affidavit.
And what if still refuses? Then voters should discard him. Trump may love Putin, but he shouldn’t be allowed to keep his finances secret, as do all the other allies of the Russian dictator.