April 15th is generally the day each year on which all Americans must submit their tax returns to the IRS. This year, April 15th is a Sunday and the following date, April 16th, is Emancipation Day, a District of Columbia holiday recognizing the day on which the District of Columbia freed its slaves. One thing we will not see anytime soon – President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns.
Since 1973, every president, beginning with Richard Nixon, released their tax returns to the public for inspection. Only Gerald Ford refused, instead publishing a ten-year summary. The tradition began during Watergate, to answer questions about the nature and sources of the president’s income and to show that Nixon was “not a crook.”
While under no obligation to release his returns, the refusal by Trump raises questions about the source of his financing and potential ties to Russia and other foreign states. Spokesperson Kellyanne Conway has repeatedly stated that Trump has no intention to release his, arguing the public does not care. (A recent Quinnipiac University poll conducted indicated that two-thirds of Americans want to see Trump’s tax returns, including 30% of Republicans.)
We suspect that Mueller may have Trump’s tax returns and so the truth will eventually out about his returns. However, in the meantime, Trump can show he is not a crook and has no ties to Russia by releasing his tax returns.
It can also confirm his charitable nature that he loves to tout, including confirming that he has donated his White House salary to various nonprofits. Release can show that the various Trump campaign payments to his businesses, included $150,000 in the first quarter according to the FEC reports, are properly addressed. (The $150,000 includes just over $24,000 in payments to The Trump Corporation for “Legal Consulting”- what could that be for?). Finally, we can see that the president is reimbursing us for the meals outside of state dinners, family travel, dry cleaning and other expenses that the President must pay for while in the White House (https://www.cnn.com/2014/06/10/politics/presidential-debt/index.html).
So many questions can be readily answered by Donald Trump releasing his tax returns. We are waiting, Mr. President. It is your chance on this Tax Day to quell the questions around your finances.
Daniel Cotter is a lawyer writing and teaching about SCOTUS, and married father of two boys living in Chicago, Illinois.