Politics Why has Donald Trump fought so hard to keep his tax returns secret?
Pandemic, stimulus checks complicate tax-filing season for millions
The tax-filing season is now underway after a delayed start, and it's expected to bring challenges and confusion as taxpayers and the IRS navigate pandemic-related issues, including some pertaining to stimulus checks.The IRS started accepting 2020 tax returns on Friday, a couple of weeks later than the usual, after a coronavirus relief law was enacted in late December.Many Americans saw significant changes to the amount and sources of their income last year because of the pandemic, and they will have to file returns that take those into account.
Theof an attempt by Donald Trump to keep Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance from seeing his tax returns (and other financial documents) was rightly cast as a major legal setback for the former President.
But buried in that conclusion is this nagging question: What is Trump so afraid of? As in: Why has he fought so incredibly hard for the past five-plus years to keep anyone from seeing his taxes?
Remember that Trump's view on releasing his tax returns was not always what it is today.
"If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns, absolutely,". "And I would love to do that." The following year, Trump : "I would certainly show tax returns if it was necessary."
Prosecutors just got millions of pages of Trump documents. His taxes are just the beginning.
The records are likely to offer New York investigators a revealing look into the former president’s business dealings, experts say.Trump had fought for more than a year to keep his records out of the hands of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. But after a Supreme Court decision this week cleared the way for the documents' release, they have been given to Vance’s investigators.
In January 2016, Trump was still dangling the possibility of releasing his returns. "I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we'll be working that over in the next period of time,""Absolutely."
But then something changed. By February 2016, Trump, who was starting to look more and more like the GOP presidential nominee, was starting to backtrack on his previous promises. "We'll make a determination over the next couple of months,". "It's very complicated."
By the following day, Trump had found his excuse for not releasing his returns; "I get audited. And obviously if I'm being audited, I'm not going to release a return,". "As soon as the audit is done, I love it."
Trump has finally turned his taxes over to New York prosecutors after losing a lengthy court fight
Manhattan prosecutors now have access to a treasure trove of information about the complex world of Trump's finances.CNN on Thursday cited one source as saying that prosecutors got hold of the documents on Monday, hours after the Supreme Court rejected Trump's last ditch effort to block the release of his taxes.
That, of course, is a flimsy excuse -- since there is no law against any person releasing their tax returns while under audit. (Richard Nixon did it while he was in the White House.) The "audit" -- which apparently is still going on! -- was simply a convenient cover for a decision Trump made sometime in late January or early February 2016: That releasing his returns would be far more politically damaging than the negative publicity he would take for not releasing them.
Trump became the only major party presidential candidate in the post-Watergate era to never release any of his tax returns.
(Sidebar: My strong sense is that when Trump was saying he would release his taxes in the early days of the campaign, it was one of many empty promises he made -- assuming that he would never be a serious candidate and/or be called on his various pledges.)
So if an ongoing audit wasn't -- and isn't -- the real reason that Trump has fought so hard to keep his taxes secret, what is? Thanks to, we now have the ability to answer -- or at least make an educated guess -- about the answer.
The Supreme Court rejected Trump's attempt to keep his tax returns secret from Manhattan's district attorney
The Supreme Court has once again knocked away Donald Trump's attempt to prevent a grand jury from seeing his tax returns.The Supreme Court rejected Trump's plea Monday after stalling a decision for nearly four months. None of the justices provided any comment in issuing the decision.
The most likely reason for Trump's reluctance to release his taxes is that they would reveal two facts:
1) He didn't pay any taxes for years and years
2) He has massive debts
Let's take the first point, er, first.:
"Mr. Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that The Times examined. In 2017, after he became president, his tax bill was only $750."
How? Well, in large part,, which could have allowed him to avoid paying taxes for decades. Trump also aggressively sought to lower his taxable income, including claiming a $72.9 million tax refund that remains under investigation by the IRS. : "Over the past two decades, Mr. Trump has paid about $400 million less in combined federal income taxes than a very wealthy person who paid the average for that group each year."
Now to Trump's debts.:
"In 2012, he took out a $100 million mortgage on the commercial space in Trump Tower. He has also sold hundreds of millions worth of stock and bonds. But his financial records indicate that he may have as little as $873,000 left to sell.
Manhattan district attorney subpoenas NYC property tax agency in Trump Organization probe
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has subpoenaed the New York City Tax Commission as part of a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump's real estate company, according to a spokesperson for the New York City mayor. © Spencer Platt/Getty Images NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 09: People walk past the Trump Tower as the impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins in Washington on February 09, 2021 in New York City. After listening to nearly four hours of legal arguments, the Senate has voted on Tuesday to move ahead with the impeachment trial of former President Trump.
"He will soon face several major bills that could put further pressure on his finances.
"He appears to have paid off none of the principal of the Trump Tower mortgage, and the full $100 million comes due in 2022. And if he loses his dispute with the I.R.S. over the 2010 refund, he could owe the government more than $100 million (including interest on the original amount)."
Trump's refusal to release his taxes during the 2016 campaign is likely explained by the first point. It's not exactly endearing to voters when a wealthy person paid somewhere between very little and nothing in taxes for years. His considerable debts -- and the questions about whether or not he will be able to pay them -- are likely the driving force for why Trump continues to work to keep his returns private. If everyone knows he's in debt and with few options to get out of it, he loses any leverage he might have to go to the financial institutions he owes money to and renegotiate the terms of the loans.
Trump always acts out of self-interest. And he is purely transactional in all of his dealings. His shifting stance on the release of his returns -- and his ongoing battle to keep them private -- is reflective of both of those points. Trump knows the details of the returns make him look bad and potentially kill any remaining leverage he has to dig himself out of the financial hole he is currently in. And so, he fights like hell to keep them secret.
Trump Thinks He’s Found a New Defense .
In his response to an adverse decision by the Supreme Court, the former president previewed an argument he’s likely to keep using.Trump had already lost a bid to prevent Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. from acquiring his financial records via subpoena. The former president then sought a stay while he searched for other means to stall. As anticipated, the justices rejected the request. Trump then issued one of just a handful of public statements he’s issued since leaving office, blasting “the Continuing Political Persecution of President Donald J. Trump.