Bucknell Institute for Public Policy: Public demands Trump release his tax returns once again
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April 18 is typically referred to as Tax Day, the deadline for U.S. citizens to file their individual income tax returns to the federal government. In 2017, April 18 will be remembered for other reasons. Americans in various cities across the country organized protests demanding for President Donald Trump to release his tax returns.
Trump’s tax returns were a hot topic of discussion during the election cycle with critics from both sides saying that he should follow tradition and release his tax returns. Presidential candidates have released their tax returns since former president Richard Nixon released his in 1973. When Trump decided not to release his, he overthrew a bipartisan tradition. In August 2016, a Gallup poll found that 73 percent of registered voters wanted him to release his taxes. Amongst registered Republicans, 62 percent said he should release them. Just one month later a Fox News poll revealed that 60 percent of voters, including 32 percent of Republicans, felt that he was hiding something by not releasing his returns. Hillary Clinton particularly attacked him for failing to do so, claiming that he could be hiding ties to foreign business leaders.
Now almost 100 days into Trump’s presidency, not much has changed, according to an ABC News and Washington Post poll, 74 percent of Americans believe that he should release his taxes. During the election, Trump’s reasoning for failing to release his taxes was that he being audited. While the IRS does not prohibit anyone from releasing their taxes, Trump argued that by releasing his taxes it would interfere with the IRS’s ability to successfully complete the audit.
Since the Watergate scandal, the IRS has audited every president and vice president during his or her term. It does so to ensure that a president is not involved in any questionable business relations that could interfere with their ability to lead the nation. With Trump, this is a significant concern as he did not divest himself from his large international business empire.
In terms of Trump’s tax returns, people are most interested in uncovering connections with Russia, shady write-offs, and proof that he is not wealthy as he claims. Someone leaked a single page from his 2005 tax returns, which revealed that he paid 38 million dollars on a 150 million dollar income, but he also wrote off 100 million dollars in losses.
In response to the protests, Trump wrote a flurry of tweets, verbally attacking the protestors, questioning why they were protesting if the election was over and asking who was funding and organizing the protest. Trump has a history of criticizing protestors. For example, he tweeted after the Women’s March, “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.” Then he tweeted less than two hours later, “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I do not always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.”
If he truly believes this, then rather than question the motives of protestors, he should champion that protests are a trademark of American democracy.