While Donald Trump has declined to release his income tax returns during his presidential campaign, the real estate mogul has actually turned them over before in cases where he needed a loan, or when a judge forced him to do so.
Large banks all around the world that have loaned Trump money, as well as several state gaming officials, have gained access to multiple years of his tax returns. However, in all of these cases each person, organization, company or government office that has been privy to Trump’s tax documents is forbidden to discuss their contents by professional or legal restrictions.
Such legal restrictions are somewhat standard if you ask any tax attorney in San Francisco, but they unfortunately leave the general public guessing as to what important information the Republican presidential candidate’s returns might hold.
Publicly releasing tax documents can only be done on Trump’s own initiative, but over the years he has repeatedly declined to do so. This of course means that voter knowledge about the New York businessman’s financial status is limited to his own estimations of wealth and the fact that his companies have declared bankruptcy at least four times.
Trump cites an ongoing IRS audit as the reason he continues to withhold the tax information. As an experienced tax attorney in San Francisco, I can definitely understand why Mr. Trump’s lawyers would advise him not to open up his taxes to the scrutiny of the public while he is currently under investigation.
In contrast to Trump’s position on the issue, every major political party’s presidential nominee since 1976 has released their tax returns. Clinton has publicly released nearly 40 years’ worth of her tax returns, and even Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has disclosed 10 years’ worth.
Although tax returns wouldn’t actually summarize net worth, they would reveal how much Trump earned from his assets and detail his charitable contributions. Despite boasting of sweeping generosity, the AP reported that there is little to no record of substantial personal philanthropy from Trump or his namesake foundation.
As Election Day looms, a recent Monmouth University poll found that nearly 3 in 4 Americans are aware that Trump has not released his tax returns and more than half believe that he’s hiding something he doesn’t want the public to know. Despite his insistence of success, public disclosure of Trump’s tax returns would undoubtedly resolve many of these questions for voters.