The big lie about Donald Trump’s tax returns

If you want the truth, listen to his accountants.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Mike Pence made news on NBC’s Meet The Press when he said that “Donald Trump and I are both going to release our tax returns.” Pence said that he would be releasing his returns in the next week and Trump would release his returns “at the completion of an audit.”

Trump is the first major candidate since Richard Nixon who has refused to release his tax returns, and the excuse of an “audit” has been a consistent refrain. It was repeated by Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, in an appearance Sunday morning.

Hillary Clinton has 15 years of tax returns available for download online.

It’s worth noting that the existence of an audit, according to the IRS, does not preclude the release of tax returns. In fact, it actually makes the release of returns less risky. The primary issue with making your tax returns public is triggering an audit. Trump doesn’t have to be worried about that.

But there is a bigger problem with the Trump campaign’s argument that all his returns are under audit: It’s not true.

The truth is disclosed in a letter from his accountants that was published to the Trump campaign website in March. It reveals that Trump’s returns from 2008 and prior are not under audit and have been “administratively closed” by the IRS.

So when Trump and his campaign staff say they are not releasing his taxes because they are under audit, that’s not true. None of his taxes from 2008 or prior are currently under audit, and yet Trump still hasn’t released those returns.

It’s also worth noting that nothing in the letter from his accountants advises him not to release his tax returns.

Trump’s tax advisers do note that in a “sense” the “pending examinations are continuations of prior, closed examinations.” But this fiction would justify perpetual non-disclosure of Trump’s returns.

Trump, apparently, is audited every year. He is currently arguing that the audit of his 2015 return precludes the release of his 2002 return, even though it is not under audit. Under this theory, even if the 2015 audit is closed, his upcoming 2016 audit would preclude the release of all his returns from 2002 to present.

Trump has also not addressed at all why he’s not releasing returns prior to 2002.

Trump also is reluctant to reveal even basic information about his taxes, such as his overall tax rate. Asked in a May interview about his tax rate, Trump recoiled. “It’s none of your business,” he snapped.

A few days ago, Eric Trump — Donald’s son and a close adviser — said it would be “foolish” for his father to ever release his taxes.

This point of view doesn’t seem consistent with someone who ever intended on making any of his tax returns public — at least not before election day. But one thing should be clear: It has nothing to do with an audit.