Time for Trump to dish his tax returns

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/02/27/time-for-trump-to-dish-his-tax-returns/

Inquiring minds want to know: What’s The Donald trying to hide?

At least, that’s the implied question in mounting media demands for Donald J. Trump, the billionaire Republican presidential contender, to release his voluminous tax returns.

Trump has described his returns as “very beautiful” and has pointedly refused to say when he expects to make public any of his tax records. Most recently, he told interviewers at ABC News he would make them public “at the appropriate time.”

To many, the candidate’s evasiveness doesn’t look good, and in a virtual sense, it smells worse. No doubt his returns are incredibly complex. But so were Mitt Romney’s.

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee who made a fortune managing money at Bain Capital in Boston had plenty to be concerned about – such as Cayman Islands and Swiss bank accounts, which though legitimate raised the specter of concealment and evasion. Romney’s foot-dragging – he finally released his 2011 return in September, less than two months before election day – probably cost him at the polls in November.

Perhaps the most damaging element of the private-equity investor’s returns was that he paid a lower effective tax rate than many Americans were still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, including lower pay and job losses. Romney paid less than 15 percent in federal taxes on almost $21 million in 2011 income. That likely didn’t sit well with many voters. But he was able to show he had given millions of dollars to his church and other charities.

Trump has made no bones about how hard he tries to avoid paying taxes. As the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog noted on Feb. 1, he hasn’t shied from making that plain.

“I fight like hell to pay as little as possible,” the brash New Yorker has said.

We can only guess how many certified public accountants, tax lawyers and other advisers Trump keeps on retainer, all of them helping to scrub his finances and whittle down his tax obligations. If he does release his taxes, it likely will take a small army of reporters and analysts to ferret out any headline-making nuggets. So while there may be some damaging stuff in there, the longer he waits, the harder it will be to find in time for it to make a difference in November.

Trump, who has produced a “summary of net worth” claiming it to be about $8.7 billion, has asserted his disclosures have been greater than his rivals. And that’s true when it comes to Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, as neither have released their 2014 tax returns. But Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic contender, has disclosed eight years of returns. And Jeb Bush, who dropped out of this year’s GOP nomination race after his dismal South Carolina primary finish, made public more than 30 years of returns last summer.

Since he has never held elective office and with very little experience as a candidate, Trump may be a bit gun shy when it comes to making public something as private as his personal tax returns. And after all, there’s no law that says he has to disclose them. But it has become customary for those seeking the nation’s highest office since at least 1980 to show voters what they’ve earned and how they earned it.

Trump’s returns may hold many more embarrassing details than those of other candidates, however, reflecting his long career as a real estate developer, casino magnate and reality television star. For instance, he reportedly has given relatively little to charity, even though he asserts otherwise.

The prospect of getting a look at the details of Trump’s tax returns surely has reporters and opposition research operatives sharpening their pencils. And for good reason. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what The Donald pocketed from the four casinos he drove into Chapter 11 bankruptcies? The most recent to flee its creditors was Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009, according to CNN. Chapter 11 lets companies restructure their debts, often forcing those owed money to give up part or all of their claims.

And then there’s Trump’s “education” startup. Some former students of Trump University have complained to the Federal Trade Commission that they paid more than $35,000 for little more than books and useless “mentoring,” claiming the enterprise was nothing more than an elaborate scam that used tactics similar to Scientology, according to Time’s Money magazine and Gizmodo.com. In 2013, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued the operation, by then called the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, for $40 million on behalf of more than 5,000 students it said were defrauded.

“Because we had faith in Donald Trump,” some victims said about why they paid tens of thousands of dollars for Trump courses, the National Review reported last summer, citing an affidavit filed by Richard Hewson of New Jersey.

Voters may well want to know how much of the New Yorker’s billions came from the pockets of those whose belief in him led to disaster – especially when they’re being asked to put their faith in Trump and hand him the most powerful job in America.