What Is Donald Trump Hiding in His Taxes?

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Donald Trump refuses to release his tax returns, as every presidential candidate has done for decades. The excuse varies. Lately he’s claimed that he’s being audited, so he can’t release them. But he’s also said the audit wouldn’t hold him back if Hillary Clinton released all her emails, so that excuse seems a little thin. When pressed, Trump adds that no one but a few media losers are interested in his taxes. More recently, though, Donald Trump Jr. has said the real reason is simpler: not only are people interested in Trump’s taxes, but they’re too interested. Releasing his tax returns would “detract” from his father’s message.

Whatevs. But let’s suppose that Trump really does have some good reasons for being wary of releasing his entire 10,000-page tax return. Over at Emptywheel, tax attorney Bob Lord asks some obvious questions:

First, what tax years are under audit? Does it go back beyond 2012? If not, can the 2011 return be released?

….Second, why haven’t the audit notices been released?…There’s nothing so sensitive in such a generic notice that it could not be made public. At this point, Trump has not even offered up this most basic evidence that he is really even under audit. Why hasn’t proof been demanded?

….Third, for the tax returns that are under audit, why can’t the first two pages be released? After all, those first two pages simultaneously contain the information most relevant to the public about a presidential candidate and contain no information that reveals the issues under audit.

There’s more at the link, including Lord’s belief that Trump might genuinely have some decent reasons for not wanting to make his entire return public. But at the very least, Trump could release the first couple of pages of his 1040, plus the summary page of Schedule A, for the past decade or so. This would tell us his business income, real estate income, capital gains, total income, charitable contributions, etc. Does he really have any plausibly good reason for not releasing this much, other than the fact that it might be personally embarrassing because it would show that he’s been lying about how much he’s worth and how much he gives to charity?

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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