FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trump’s Tax Returns: What’s There to Hide?

by

Let’s begin by dispatching with the flimsy pretext that Donald Trump should not publish his tax returns because he is under audit, if it is even true that he is under audit. With the IRS operating on a barebones budget, it’s true that audits can be slow to resolve, but they are typically limited in scope to specific issues and there is nothing plausible, let alone “routine,” about an audit that allegedly never ends. But that’s beside the point, as the Internal Revenue Service already has copies of his tax returns in their entirety, so there is no leverage lost in Donald Trump publishing his tax filings for the general public to see. The IRS has nothing to gain from Donald Trump publishing the information that they have already had on file for years.

There are many actual reasons for which Donald Trump is hiding his tax information in the face of mounting public pressure. The most favorable justification to him may be that detail provided in his personal tax returns could be used by third parties, like creditors or former business partners, to provide evidence of actionable claims against him, such as that he broke contracts or misled his many debtors. This is unlikely, however, because his personal tax returns will only divulge the most basic financial data from his businesses—for example, his share of their income and losses—and to see the real inner workings of his business dealings one would need access to the tax returns of The Trump Organization and the various other businesses he owns an interest in. There’s just not much information contained in his personal tax returns that is detailed enough that it could be used effectively in a lawsuit against him.

The next most favorable excuse might be the cynical and fundamentally unacceptable conclusion that the political benefits of concealing the information outweigh the political costs. Maybe Donald Trump’s tax returns would reveal that Melania Trump likes to give money to Planned Parenthood, or alternatively that they give almost nothing to charity, and publishing his tax returns would likely reveal that he has taken overly aggressive tax positions—an especially likely theory if he is under a seemingly never ending audit and brags about doing everything legally permissible to avoid paying his fair share. Another likely political disincentive to publishing the returns may be that Donald Trump loses money more often than he makes it, and publishing his tax returns would divulge the fact that he continues to roll forward huge net operating losses—that is, accumulated losses from decades of bankrupting his poorly managed business ventures. However, as Donald Trump recently declared on Twitter, the election is over—and any hit to his poll numbers over the specifics of his effective tax rates is likely to be unimportant while he has us teetering on the precipice of war with North Korea.

The real reason that Donald Trump will never publish his tax returns is likely summed up in two words: foreign reporting. While foreign reporting requirements can often be separate from a person’s tax filings, Form 8938: Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets is required to be filed with the tax returns of individuals who have certain valuable overseas foreign assets, and Donald Trump likely has dozens, if not hundreds, of such reportable foreign financial assets. The “smoking gun” in Donald Trump’s tax returns is most likely that he has so much of his wealth in foreign assets that his personal financial interests are irreconcilable with the interests of the American people, and his tax returns, if published in their entirety, would reveal conflicts of interests so intractable and damning that they would be without precedent in modern political history. America’s foreign policy may be driven in large part by which specific countries Donald Trump has chosen to invest his father’s fortune in.

In the face of certain corruption in the White House, Americans should call for transparency now more than ever. The Trump Administration will only be as transparent as the American public demands it to be, and so when the White House makes announcements like the declaration that they will no longer publish the White House visitor logs, the American public should forcefully reject these decisions as fundamentally unacceptable to the values of our democracy. As Donald Trump continues to break historic precedent in failing to publish his tax returns, the American public can only assume it is because Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest are vast and pervasive that they impair his ability to serve another day as president. The best thing for the American public to do is to demand transparency and accountability, vocally and persistently, and not acquiesce to the corruption by easing up on the public pressure. Americans should take to the streets and loudly denounce the sham that has become the American presidency until the White House is compelled to cave to mounting public pressure and introduce desperately needed transparency and reforms, beginning with the publication of the White House visitor logs and Donald Trump’s tax returns.

More articles by:

Sam Richards is a tax accountant.

November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail