President Donald Trump — the first commander-in-chief in more than 40 years to not release his tax returns — is facing new demands to disclose the documents.
Polls show that a majority of voters believe he should make the returns public, in the interest of transparency.
Since Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, nearly 637,000 people have signed an online petition on the White House website urging the president to release his tax returns.
“Tax marches” have been organized in Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and more than 30 other cities to coincide with the traditional April 15 federal tax filing deadline. Democratic lawmakers in the Senate and House have filed legislation to require all presidential nominees to release their last three years of tax filings.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks, a website that published emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s top campaign advisers and stolen transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street firms, has urged the president on Twitter to release his taxes or risk having them leaked to the site.
“Trump’s breach of promise over the release of his tax returns is even more gratuitous than Clinton concealing her Goldman Sachs transcripts,” WikiLeaks wrote on Twitter on Jan. 22, referring to Clinton’s refusal during the campaign to release transcripts of her speeches to financial firms.
The calls for disclosure come as Trump and White House aides have doubled down on their decision to withhold the documents, saying he is waiting for an IRS audit to be completed. IRS officials have said there are no rules barring Trump from releasing the documents before the audit is finalized.
Trump and his aides have pointed to his election victory in arguing that most Americans are not concerned about the documents.
“The only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only ones,” Trump said during a Jan. 11 news conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan. “I won, I mean, I became president ... I don’t think they care at all.”
But according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Jan. 15, 74 percent of voters, including 49 percent of Trump supporters, said the president should release his tax returns.
A Pew Research Center poll released Jan. 10 found that 60 percent of voters surveyed believed he had a responsibility to release his tax forms for public scrutiny.
Organizers for the Trump Tax Day marches in April cite such poll figures as a reason they are organizing the multicity protests. They say the polls send a message to Trump that the public “does care.”
Liz Tursi, 30, of Brooklyn, and co-organizer of the Manhattan tax march, said she and her friend Wes Shockley felt they needed to organize the march to promote “more transparency.” A Facebook group they set up last month to announce the march has nearly 29,000 followers.
“Failure to reveal your tax returns as a presidential candidate and now as president is a cause for concern,” Yura said in an interview. “It’s unprecedented. Is he hiding something? His tax returns could perhaps reveal conflicts of interest ... maybe he doesn’t make as much money as he claims to have. It’s very important for the American public to know if their president is paying his fair share of taxes like the rest of us.”
Tax documents leaked to The New York Times during the final month of the presidential campaign showed that Trump claimed more than $900 million in business losses in 1995, which would have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes for 18 years.
Trump responded to the report by casting himself as a savvy businessman who knows “complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them.”
Ethics attorneys and others say the returns could provide a window into Trump’s foreign business dealings, his level of charitable giving and whether he is abiding by tax regulations.
Joe Thorndike, a historian for TaxAnalyst, a nonpartisan tax policy organization, said while much of the discussion about Trump’s tax returns has focused on “finding dirt about the president,” releasing the documents also is important because “we want to make sure the tax system is being administered fairly and in an evenhanded fashion for all taxpayers including those who are extraordinary taxpayers like the president of the United States.”