Trump Breaks With History by Not Releasing Tax Returns

 

Donald J. Trump spoke at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Ind., on last week.

Republicans and Democrats who have been awaiting the promised release of Donald J. Trump’s tax returns better not hold their breath.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said in an interview with The Associated Press, that despite indicating earlier that he would disclose his filings, he does not plan on doing so before the November general election.

“There’s nothing to learn from them,” Mr. Trump told The A.P., explaining that he did not think voters were particularly interested in the contents of his returns.

Mr. Trump later pushed back, explaining that he still intended to release his tax returns once the federal audit was completed.

The release of tax returns is not legally required of presidential candidates, but there is a long tradition of major party nominees putting their returns forward for the public to peruse. Joseph J. Thorndike, an adjunct college professor who tracks presidential tax returns as the director of the Tax History Project, said Mr. Trump would be the first major candidate since 1976 to not make any of his full returns public. President Gerald R. Ford released a tax summary that year.

During the heat of his primary battle, Mr. Trump said he would release his tax information and blamed the delay on the complexity of his finances. He later said that he could not do it immediately because he is being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, and that his lawyers advised him against it. Mr. Trump has also explained that he cannot release returns from previous years because the government audits him almost every year.

Although Mr. Trump has cited the audit as a reason for withholding his returns, Dr. Thorndike noted that President Richard M. Nixon released his under audit, starting the tradition of candidates making theirs public.

“I think 40 years of tradition carries real moral and ethical weight,” Dr. Thorndike said. “It is quite striking that a major candidate would decide not to release their tax information — especially someone with an admittedly complex tax situation.”

Among the most prominent people to call on Mr. Trump to release his returns this year has been Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who did not want to release his tax returns but finally relented under pressure. One of the people who was encouraging him to do so that year was Mr. Trump, who said that Mr. Romney should be proud of his wealth and not hold back his financial information.

“Mitt has to get those tax returns out,” Mr. Trump said in a Fox News interview at the time. “I’m a little surprised they weren’t better prepared for that.”

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