NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–August 1, 2016
By: The New York Times Editorial Board
As Donald Trump’s tweets pile one atop another, generating sensational headlines, issues of true substance are tending to get lost in the shuffle. None is more important for voters to keep in mind than the failure of Mr. Trump to disclose his full income tax returns, something he is not likely to do by Election Day.
He is the first major party candidate since 1976 — since Watergate, essentially — to deny voters that vital measure of credibility. It is not required by law that candidates furnish their returns. But Americans have come to expect it.
The interest in Mr. Trump’s case is particularly high. He is running for the White House partly as a business wizard, but is he really as rich and talented as he boasts? Is he as philanthropic as he claims with his reputed billions? Has he truly no conflicts of interest in Russia, whose computer hackers he has bizarrely invited to spy on Hillary Clinton, his campaign rival?
These questions are of Mr. Trump’s own making, and a timely release of his tax returns would provide some answers. “There’s nothing to learn from them,” he tried to insist in May, arguing that he would not make the returns public until after an Internal Revenue Service audit is complete.
But the I.R.S. says Mr. Trump is free to release the returns at any time and to defend their accuracy, just as President Richard Nixon did while he was undergoing an audit. In the past, Mr. Trump has not hesitated to attack the I.R.S. as “very unfair,” but now he stands before the voters using the agency as a shield against disclosure.
We can only imagine how livid the Trump tweets would be if Mrs. Clinton were failing to meet this standard of campaign transparency. She has posted eight years of tax returns on her campaign website for all to see.
Mr. Trump’s contention that there’s nothing to learn from his tax returns should be a red alert to voters. Four years ago, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, resisted disclosure, and Mr. Trump was among those pressing him to release his returns. When Mr. Romney finally complied, voters were surprised to discover that his effective tax rate was 14 percent — well below the official 35 percent rate for those in his top bracket. When asked about his own tax rate, Mr. Trump snapped: “None of your business.”
Appearing last week on Fox TV, Mr. Trump looked back and rued the Romney disclosure, declaring, “He might have lost the election over that.” Might Mr. Trump be worried about how his own returns would look to voters? He brags that he aims to pay as little in taxes as possible under the law, which probably means claiming tax breaks that ordinary voters do not exercise. In 1981, a report by New Jersey gambling regulators showed Mr. Trump had not paid any taxes for two years in the 1970s because he could report negative income as a developer.
The voters deserve to know what Mr. Trump is hiding, particularly considering his history of bankruptcies, the government investigations of Trump University and other dodgy parts of his branded universe. As the campaign rolls toward the fall, pressure will grow on Mr. Trump to be far more transparent than he has been. Responding with another pithy tweet won’t do.
This commentary first appeared in the New York Times at: mobile.nytimes.com/2016/08/01/opinion/donald-trump-ducks-tax-disclosure.html
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