I’m Still Confused About Trump’s Tax Returns

2016 was a year of political firsts in the US. We had the first woman securing the primary nomination of a major party. We had the first true anti-candidate in then-Republican nominee Donald Trump. And for the first time in our modern era, we had a president who refused to submit his tax returns to public scrutiny.

While this has become a rallying cry for those of us on the left, and remains widely dismissed by the right, it should be a matter of speculation on both sides of the aisle. Where are the president's taxes, and will we ever see them?

With tax season just wrapping up, it's an important time to reflect on one of the biggest loose ends that have dogged the Trump administration, and that is continually shrouded in mystery: What is behind the president's tax returns?

Throughout his 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump failed to produce his tax returns and was occasionally questioned by members of his party for not doing so. However, as his ascension to party nominee became imminent, the chatter seemed to die down, and he smoothly donned the mantle of the Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 elections.

It was then left to the Democratic candidates at the time — Clinton and Sanders — to bring up the lack of tax returns and speculate as to what might be hidden therein. Trump, for his part, offered various defenses and diversions, claiming at one point that he was under audit from the IRS and was not allowed to submit under such circumstances. However, this argument doesn’t hold up from a legal standpoint; not to mention, Richard Nixon was also under audit during his presidency in 1973 and released his tax returns without issue.  

In other instances, Mr. Trump seemed poised to release his returns, claiming before his official campaign announcement in 2014 that he would be willing to produce the returns if he decided to run, and also in 2016, following the nomination. Both instances ended in disappointment and further suspicion, which increased to a fever pitch following Trump’s election and the subsequent opening of the Mueller investigation.

None of us know what is concealed in these returns

Both sides of the aisle have floated theories in the wake of the President’s continued refusal to submit his taxes. On the left, many have drawn potential connections between the Mueller probe — which is investigating allegations of Russian election meddling and related collusion on the part of the Trump campaign — and President Trump's finances.

While the exact relation that each has to the other is murky at best, the lack of transparency is troubling and paints the portrait of an administration mired in corruption.

Others have suggested that the tax returns include something deeply embarrassing or amoral. With the current legal disputes surrounding Stormy Daniels, a former sex worker who claims to have served Mr. Trump, it’s been suggested that perhaps the returns would in some way corroborate allegations made against Trump. Again, without the presence of the tax returns, it’s hard to say.

It is also possible that the absence of the tax returns is a matter of personal pride and nothing of political importance. Donald Trump, who ran on a platform of wealth and prosperity, might be concealing his tax returns for the simple reason that he is not as wealthy as he has led his supporters to believe.

Since he has widely built his platform on economic reform and protectionism, embarrassing losses in personal revenue could reflect poorly on the President’s reputation as a businessman. Or he is just being stubborn to make a point out of pride at this point.

None of us know what is concealed in these returns, and it is unlikely — particularly in a Trump administration with a Republican majority in both the House and Senate — that we will. Still, with the regularity with which material is leaked from this administration, one can't entirely count out the possibility that we’ll discover all the juicy deets at some point.



More about the author

About the author

Born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Kate Harveston is a recent college graduate and an aspiring journalist. She enjoys writing about social change and human rights issues, but she has written on a wide variety of other topics as well.

She blogs on social and cultural issues at  Only Slightly Biased.

Follow Kate on Twitter.

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