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Demand Trump tax returns before legislating tax reform

Protesters marched up Sixth Avenue, calling on President

Protesters marched up Sixth Avenue, calling on President Donald Trump to release his taxes Saturday, April 15, 2017. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

U.S. taxpayers have paid their president more than $35,000 so the Secret Service can use golf carts at one of his courses near his Mar-a-Lago resort. Donald Trump has been there on seven of the 13 weekends he’s been in office, and The Washington Post calculated that as of Monday, he had spent one of every five minutes there since his inauguration. Each time, he’s both president and cheerleader in chief for his brand. He attends events with resort members, who now pay higher fees. Every photo op is more marketing for the property. The Government Accountability Office is analyzing the costs of those Mar-a-Lago visits, like security, food and lodging.

If only we knew that much about Trump’s other financial connections. But he’d have to release his tax returns, and he has refused.

No other president has held such a complicated web of businesses, and no other president in modern history has withheld his tax returns. The international scope of Trump’s holdings creates tremendous potential conflicts of interest. We know, for instance, that the state-owned Bank of China has been a large lender to Trump’s businesses. Does he owe China something in return? In addition, Trump’s companies have loans and mortgages with Deutsche Bank AG, and that the U.S. Justice Department recently closed one investigation into the bank, but we don’t know how Trump’s dealings with the bank will affect other investigations and regulations. We don’t know much about Trump’s personal business ties to Russia. And we can’t evaluate how his deals will influence his foreign policy and other critical decisions. Trump’s tax returns won’t answer every question, but they would disclose key details regarding his investments, partnerships and business arms, whether he has foreign bank accounts and trusts, and whether he pays taxes to foreign governments. And we’d know how his sweeping tax reform ideas would benefit him and his companies.

During the campaign, Trump said he’d release his tax returns after they were audited, though no law prevents their release. On Sunday, he implied the demand for the returns should have ended when he won the election. On Monday, his press secretary was asked whether Trump would ever release them. “We’ll have to get back to you on that,” he said.

The nation waits. Congress must demand that Trump release the returns before it passes new tax laws. Tuesday is Tax Day. For all of us, that means telling the government what we earned and how we earned it. For Trump, it should mean telling us. — The editorial board