But buried in that conclusion is this nagging question: What is Trump so afraid of? As in: Why has he fought so incredibly hard over the past five plus years to keep anyone from seeing his taxes?
Remember, Trump’s opinion on the release of his tax returns was not always what it is today.
In January 2016, Trump was still suspending the possibility of publishing his returns. “I have really big feedback, as you know, and I approved everything and very good looking and we’ll be working on it in the next period,” Trump said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. “Absolutely.” But something has changed. In February 2016, Trump, who was starting to look more and more like the GOP presidential candidate, began to reverse his previous promises. “We’ll make a decision over the next couple of months,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview that aired Feb. 24, 2016. “It’s very complicated.” The next day, Trump found his excuse not to publish his statements; “I am audited. And obviously, if I’m audited, I won’t post a feedback, ”he said. “As soon as the audit is done, I love it.”
This is, of course, a shaky excuse – as there is no law prohibiting anyone from posting their tax returns while auditing. (Richard Nixon did this while in the White House.) The “audit” – which apparently is still going on! – was simply practical cover for a decision Trump made in late January or early February 2016: that publishing his returns would be much more politically damaging than the negative publicity he would take for not publishing them.
Trump became the only presidential candidate of a major party in the post-Watergate era to never release any of his tax returns.
(Box: My strong feeling is that when Trump said he would free his taxes in the early days of the campaign, that was one of many empty promises he made – assuming he would never be a serious candidate and / or would never be called on his various promises.)
So if an ongoing audit wasn’t – and isn’t – the real reason Trump fought so hard to keep his taxes a secret, what is it? Thanks to the New York Times obtaining many of Trump’s tax records, we now have the ability to answer – or at least make an educated guess – about the answer.
The most likely reason for Trump’s reluctance to release his taxes is that they would reveal two facts:
1) He paid no taxes for years and years
2) he has massive debts
Let’s take the first point, uh, first. Here’s what The Times reported on Trump’s taxes:
“Mr. Trump paid no federal income tax for 11 of the 18 years the Times examined. In 2017, after becoming president, his tax bill was only $ 750.”
How? ‘Or’ What? Well, in large part, by claiming more than $ 900 million in losses on his 1995 tax return, which could have saved him from paying taxes for decades. Trump has also aggressively sought to reduce his taxable income, including demanding a tax refund of $ 72.9 million which is still under IRS investigation. As David Leonhardt of The Times wrote: “Over the past two decades, Mr. Trump has paid about $ 400 million less in combined federal taxes than a very wealthy person who paid the average for this group each year. ” Now on to Trump’s debts. And again, Leonhardt:
“In 2012, he took out a $ 100 million mortgage on the Trump Tower retail space. He also sold hundreds of millions of stocks and bonds. But his financial records show he has nothing left. maybe 873,000 dollars to sell.
“He will soon have to face several important bills that could put more pressure on his finances.
“He appears to have paid none of the principal on the Trump Tower mortgage, and the entire $ 100 million is due in 2022. What if he loses his dispute with the IRS over the 2010 repayment, he could owe the government more than $ 100 million (including interest on the original amount). “
Trump’s refusal to release his taxes during the 2016 campaign is likely due to the first point. It is hardly endearing to voters when a rich person has paid very little to nothing in taxes for years. His massive debts – and questions of whether or not he’ll be able to pay them – are likely the driving force behind why Trump continues to work to keep his returns private. If everyone knows he’s in debt and has few options to get out of it, he loses any leverage he might have to go to the financial institutions he owes money to. and renegotiate loan terms.
Trump always acts out of personal interest. And it is purely transactional in all its transactions. His shifting stance on publishing his returns – and his continuing struggle to keep them private – reflects both of these points. Trump knows the details of the returns make him look bad and risk killing any remaining leverage to get himself out of the financial hole he is currently in. And so, he fights like hell to keep them secret.
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