Earlier today, Sean Spicer claimed that Donald Trump would not release his tax returns because he was still under audit by the IRS. However, as NPR observed last year, there is no law preventing Trump from releasing his tax returns if they are under audit.
In a recent tweet, Mark Cuban, a longtime critic of Trump, argued that he should release his 2016 returns since he is not under audit for the past year.
.@realDonaldTrump has to file taxes by tomorrow like all of us. No way he is under audit for this year. Where are his new tax returns ?
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) April 17, 2017
However, it turns out that Cuban is actually incorrect in this regard. A fellow Twitter-user pointed out that presidents are audited every year and he is correct in that regard.
— Joe Thorndike (@jthorndike) April 17, 2017
However, this still misses the wider point. Legally speaking, there is no reason for Trump to refuse to release his returns. While some tax attorneys may advise their clients not to do so while under audit, that doesn’t change what the law says. If Trump were still a real-estate developer then his attorney’s advice would be fine.
Trump, unfortunately, is not a real-estate developer. He is the president of the United States and is thus, theoretically, accountable to the people. Of course, as the beginning of his term has shown, Trump doesn’t seem to consider himself accountable to anyone but himself.
Ultimately, Trump’s refusal to release his taxes undermines his credibility as president. There is speculation that he may be in debt to Russian oligarchs and his taxes would reveal whether or not that is true. If he would simply release his returns, then — assuming there’s nothing relating to Russia in them — the speculation would go away.
In short, the longer he hides his returns, the more it starts to look like he’s hiding something from the people. The longer it looks like he is hiding something, the more it undermines his credibility as a leader.
Featured image via Getty Images.