Monday, May 16, 2016

Mr. Trump, release your tax returns

(My new American Thinker post)

Didn't someone tell Mr. Trump that his tax returns would be an issue in the campaign? I can't believe that he didn't see this one coming.  

He will need to do better than saying that it's none of our business. It was none of my business before. We should see them now.

To be fair, there is a lot of hypocrisy out there, such as George Stephanopoulos of ABC asking about his returns. After all, didn't George work for a guy who didn't release his returns in 1992? 

It's reasonable to request a tax return from a man who wants my vote.   

I'm not interested in reading a line or making an issue of everything.   

I just want to know whether Mr. Trump is consistent with what he preaches. For example, does he hide his money overseas? Or do his international associations pay taxes here or there?  

Timothy O'Brien had a chance to see his returns a few years ago, as part of a lawsuit involving both men. This is what Mr. O'Brien wrote:
Actually, as someone who saw Trump’s federal tax returns about a decade ago as part of a legal action in which he sued me for libel (the suit was later dismissed), I think there probably are some things to be learned from them.
The tax returns my lawyers and I reviewed were sealed, and a court order prevents me from speaking or writing about the specifics of what I saw. I can say that Trump routinely delayed -- for months on end -- producing those documents, and when they finally arrived they were so heavily redacted that they looked like crossword puzzles. The litigation ran on for five years, and during that time we had to petition the court to compel Trump to hand over unredacted versions of the tax returns -- which he ultimately did. 
So despite Trump’s statements to the contrary, here are some general questions that a full release of at least several years of his tax returns might usefully answer:
1) Income: Trump has made the size of his fortune a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, implying that it’s a measure of his success as a businessman. He has also correctly noted that the income shown on his tax returns isn’t a reflection of his total wealth. Even so, income is a basis for assessing some of the foundations of any individual’s wealth -- and would certainly reflect the financial wherewithal of the businesses in which Trump is involved.
After Fortune’s Shawn Tully dug into Trump’s financial disclosures with the Federal Election Commission and an accompanying personal balance sheet his campaign released, he noted in March that Trump “appears to have overstated his income, by a lot, which could be the reason he has so far tried to avoid releasing his returns.” Tully said that Trump apparently boosted his income in the documents by conflating his various businesses’ revenue with his personal income. Trump didn’t respond to Tully’s assessment, but he could clear up all of that by releasing his tax returns. 
2) Business Activities: Trump has long claimed that his company, the Trump Organization, employs thousands of people. He has also criticized Fortune 500 companies for operating businesses overseas at the expense of jobs for U.S. workers. Trump’s returns would show how active he and his businesses are globally -- and would help substantiate the actual size and scope of his operation.
3) Charitable Giving: Trump has said that he’s a generous benefactor to a variety of causes -- especially war veterans -- even though it’s been hard to find concrete evidence to support the assertion. Other examples of major philanthropic largess from Trump have also been elusive. Trump could release his tax returns and put the matter to rest.
4) Tax Planning: There’s been global attention focused on the issue of how politicians and the wealthy use tax havens and shell companies to possibly hide parts of their fortunes from authorities. If released, Trump’s returns would make clear whether or not he used such vehicles.
5) Transparency and Accountability: Trump is seeking the most powerful office in the world. Some of the potential conflicts of interest or financial pressures that may arise if he reaches the White House would get an early airing in a release of his tax returns.
To be fair, I don't know whether Mr. O'Brien is part of the #NeverTrump movement or part of the "establishment" or just a guy who hates Trump.  

However, he raises reasonable points in his article, such as the real size of the Trump Empire.     

Let me add this. I expect Mr. Trump to pay the lowest tax under U.S. Tax laws. I don't think that he should be treated any different than Mr. Romney who had a complex tax return too.

Mr Trump owes the country a little transparency here. Again, I expect Mr. Trump to take advantage of the U.S. tax laws, as any of us would do in the situation.

This is about transparency, not taking cheap shots at his taxes. The left will always take cheap shots at Mr. Trump's taxes. At the same time, none of these lefties are going to vote for Trump even if he sent each one a personalized copy of the returns by overnight mail.

I want to see whether Trump is really Trump. So show me the returns and let's move on to other issues. Frankly, there are bigger issues on the table.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.



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