(CNN) – It’s the presidential election’s elephant in the room. Will republican nominee Donald trump ever release his tax returns to the public?
Trump insists they will be released once an IRS audit is complete, but critics say there may be a reason for the resistance.
Donald Trump refuses to release his tax returns, “Nobody cares about it except some of the folks in the media. Nobody cares about it.”
Trump claims he can’t release any of his returns while under “routine” audit even as the IRS has made clear there’s no legal requirement for trump to withhold them, “Just so you understand I’m under audit. A routine audit. And when the audits complete I’ll release my returns.”
Even as Trump’s own lawyers note the IRS review of his 2002 through 2008 returns is complete.
Even his own running mate, Mike Pence, preparing to release his taxes this week, “I’ll give mine to y’all this week and he’s going to provide his after a routine audit is done.”
Trump’s refusal has drawn sharp attacks from Hillary Clinton, “Clearly his tax returns tell a story that the American people deserve and need to know.”
Despite Trump’s contention, a series of polls show voters do, in fact, care about Trump’s tax returns. So what exactly aren’t voters seeing?
“Voters could see the type of taxable income that he has, whether it’s ordinary income or capital gains income. Voters could also learn how much a candidate has given to charity,” said Professor Joshua Blank.
A CNN review of Trump’s available financial documents show four potential areas that may shed light on Trump’s reluctance.
Take Trump’s charitable giving, an extensive Washington Post review of Trump’s personal charitable donations has raised major questions of what trump has actually given.
Despite Trump’s bold claims to the contrary, “This is my check for a million dollars.”
Or take Trump’s tax rate, an issue that dogged the Republican Party’s 2012 nominee for months. Trump has made clear as a businessman, he’s done everything in his power not to pay more tax than necessary, “I pay as little as possible. I use every single thing in the book.”
However Trump’s involvement with real estate raises the very real possibility he pays nothing at all, according to tax experts, “An obvious benefit is that a taxpayer who owns property, real estate, a building can trade that property for another building, and as long as that property is going to be used for investment purposes or in business, the taxpayer won’t pay tax on the gain at all.”
In fact, CNN has identified at least three years 1978, 1979 and 1984 where he definitively paid zero dollars in federal income tax. Documents show another two years 1991 and 1993 where Trump likely paid little to no income tax as well.
Then there’s the issue of Trump’s total net worth now to be clear, a few years of tax returns wouldn’t shed light on whether trump is actually worth the 10-plus billion dollars he claims.
It would show Trump’s net income and adjusted gross income, providing more detailed insight than the financial disclosure form filed by Trump in May.
Perhaps most importantly for Trump’s opponents, a detailed release of Trump’s returns would provide a window into Trump’s business connections.
Trump’s own lawyers making it clear that Trump is the, quote, “sole or principal owner in approximately 500 separate entities” that “engage in hundreds of transactions, deals and new enterprises every year.”
For the moment, however, there is little indication that Trump’s returns will be revealed before Election Day. Though Trump himself appears willing to make a deal, “In the meantime she has 33 thousand emails that she deleted. When is she going to release her emails? She probably knows how to find it. Let her release her emails and I’ll release my tax returns immediately.”
Copyright CNN 2016