“Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses,” the Times notes. “An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.” This raises questions about whether Mr. Trump is hoping for special treatment from the IRS or Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, which vets large tax refunds.
Mr. Trump’s apparently disastrous financial situation may help explain, at least in part, his unwillingness to assure the country that he will leave office if defeated at the polls. Clinging to power as major debts come due might help him. Also: His success as a self-promoter and television personality appears to have financed his extravagant business mistakes, and it would be harder for him to make more money in television if he left the White House an admitted loser.
The tax return information, while revealing, has many gaps, as the Times noted. It could be that the president painted an unrealistically dire picture on his tax returns to reduce his tax bill. Mr. Trump himself alleges that the Times story is misleading. There’s an obvious solution. When he ran for president in 2016, he promised to release his tax returns. He broke that promise. Now, he could clear up questions by honoring his original pledge and finally releasing his tax documents, as have all other presidents and major candidates since President Richard M. Nixon’s time. Mr. Trump also should provide a full, independent accounting of his private financial affairs, including the identity of his creditors.
Lacking a record in public service, Mr. Trump built his appeal on his supposed business success. To evaluate this claim, voters should have been allowed to examine how he conducted himself in business, what conflicts of interest his sprawling entanglements would bring and what risks his presidency might pose. By continuing to hide and deny, Mr. Trump only advances the ever-strengthening case that none of these questions can be answered favorably.