Donald Trump on how much tax he paid
Donald Trump said on Friday that he doesn't believe voters have a right to see his tax returns, and insisted it's "none of your business" when pressed on what tax rate he himself pays — a question that tripped up Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race.
Trump made the comments in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," as he continued to try to answer questions about his change in explanations over the last year about why he won't release the taxes.
When the interviewer, George Stephanopoulos, asked Trump directly if he thought voters had a right to see his returns, something that presidential nominees have provided for roughly 40 years, the candidate replied, "I don't think they do."
Trump added: "But I do say this, I will really gladly give them — not going to learn anything but it's under routine audit. When the audit ends I'll present them. That should be before the election. I hope it's before the election."
When asked what effective tax rate he pays, Trump said: "It's none of your business. You'll see it when I release, but I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible."
Romney, who is also a businessman, delayed releasing many of his returns until September 2012, at which point they showed an effective tax rate that was much lower than most Americans pay. Trump has said in the last few years that Romney erred in waiting so long and should have done it sooner.
Also during the interview, Stephanopoulos pointed out that the Internal Revenue Service has said being audited is not prohibitive in terms of individual choice to make tax returns public, and that President Richard M. Nixon did so when he was being audited.
But Trump insisted that "people will learn nothing."
"I put in financials, 100 pages worth of financials, that show that I built a company that's worth more than $10 billion," Trump said. "It shows cash. It shows cash flows. It shows everything. You learn very little from tax returns but nevertheless, when the audit is complete, I will release. I have no problem with it."
He said he has no offshore accounts that would be discovered.
Trump conceded that he released tax returns under audit over a decade ago when he was seeking a casino license, but said, "At the time it didn't make any difference to me, now it does."
Democrats have treaded lightly on the issue of Trump's tax returns in the last week, as Hillary Clinton faces pressure to release transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs. Trump pointed to her refusal to release the transcripts of her speeches in his interview with Stephanopoulos.
But there is no tradition for releasing transcripts of paid speeches, whereas the tradition of presidential candidates releasing tax returns stretches back decades. And Trump has faced questions repeatedly about whether he is worth what he claims to be.
"So you've got to ask yourself, why doesn't he want to release them?" Clinton said at a campaign event Wednesday. "Yeah, well, we're going to find out."
She and her husband have released their taxes going back to 1977, when he first entered political life.
At minimum for Trump, the returns would help establish his level of liquidity. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee claims to have enough money to keep lending his campaign funds if he chooses to. Trump's allies insist that comparing his taxes to Clinton's is unfair, since he has a private business. But he is not the first businessman ever to run for public office, and most have found ways to make their tax information available, even in redacted form.
The good-government group Common Cause put out a statement calling on Trump to release the taxes, pointing out that he released under-audit versions in the early 2000s to gaming commissions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Trump has given different explanations for why he wouldn't release his taxes over the years. In 2011, when he contemplated running for president, Trump said he would release his tax returns when President Barack Obama released his birth certificate. Obama made the birth certificate public in April 2011, and Trump announced a few weeks later that he would not run for president.
Last year, Trump said he was still considering whether to release the returns, but he made no mention of the audits until this year.