For months, the official talking point of the Trump campaign has been that Donald Trump would be happy to release his tax returns but cannot because they are under audit.
This explanation is disingenuous for a couple of different reasons. First, being subject to an audit does not prevent Trump from releasing his tax returns. (From a legal perspective, it makes it less risky.) Second, most of Trump’s tax returns are not under audit. We know this because the Trump campaign released a letter confirming that all of his tax returns from 2008 and earlier are not under audit.
In January, Trump described his tax returns as “all approved and very beautiful” and pledged to release them soon without even mentioning the audit.
Signing my tax return…. pic.twitter.com/XJfXeaORbU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2015
But in an interview with the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review published on Wednesday night, Donald Trump Jr. revealed a completely different — and presumably more accurate — explanation.
Trump Jr. didn’t mention the audit but said that his father would not release his tax returns during the election because it would create a “distraction” and people would have a lot of “questions.”
When asked why his father has not released his tax returns as presidential candidates have traditionally done, Trump Jr. said, “Because he’s got a 12,000-page tax return that would create … financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would detract from (his father’s) main message.”
The fact that Trump’s tax returns would be a subject of discussion is precisely why they should be released. Among other things, his tax returns would provide a clearer picture of the many conflicts between a Trump administration and his business interests.
Every major presidential candidate for the last 40 years, except Trump, has released their tax returns.
Arguably, Trump’s returns are the most consequential. Most candidates have long careers in government, making their tax returns quite simple since government service largely precludes complex financial entanglements. Trump, however, has a been involved in intricate financial dealings for decades.
CNN accurately summarized Trump Jr.’s argument:
His returns would shed light on the true extent of his charitable giving, whether he took aggressive measures to avoid paying tax and provide a more accurate picture of his real income.
These are questions, according to Donald Trump Jr., that he doesn’t want answered during the campaign.