Donald Trump has filed for an extension when it comes to filing his 2016 tax returns. Although the filing deadline was in April, news of Trump’s extension filing just broke this evening. Officially, it means he now has until mid October to file. Unofficially, there is only one plausible reason for Trump to have asked for the extension: he doesn’t want Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be able to get his hands on those returns in the mean time.
From an accounting standpoint, there’s no reason for this delay. From his leaked 1995 returns, we know that in the years where Trump is short on money, he simply plays accounting games so he doesn’t have to pay any taxes. So even if he is currently broke, as is widely suspected, this can’t be about trying to buy time to come up with the money to pay his tab. Nor is it realistic to believe that he simply couldn’t pull his filings together in time, considering it’s handled entirely by his accountants.
And yet nonetheless, here comes the news that Trump has filed for a 2016 extension (source: ABC News). Despite popular misconception, a sitting president’s tax returns are not automatically released to the public. Instead it’s merely a customary thing that’s always been done, and Trump doesn’t have to do it (source: taxhistory.org). But as we previously reported, Special Counsel Robert Mueller can seize Trump’s tax returns any time he likes (source: Palmer Report), and Trump wouldn’t even necessarily know it’s happening.
So this is rather clearly an attempt on Trump’s part at preventing Mueller from getting his hands on those 2016 tax returns. But this won’t stop Mueller from being able to access Trump’s returns from 2015 and earlier. And for that matter, Mueller can seize financial records and piece together Trump’s would-be 2016 return on his own. If anything, this stunt by Trump may backfire by prompting Mueller to go ahead and seize Trump’s previous years to determine what Trump is trying to hide.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report