Reno Gazette Journal April 23, 2017
On April 15th, our traditional deadline for federal income tax filings, there were protests around the country demanding President Trump release his tax returns. While President Trump has not released any of his tax returns, a few pages of his tax return from 2005 were leaked. For the year 2005, Trump had paid $38 million (just over 25%) in taxes on income of over $150 million. While all Presidents since Nixon have released their tax returns, it is also important to note that President Trump is in full compliance with all required federal financial disclosures.
The issue of Trump’s tax return was discussed at length during the campaign. The fact that people elected Mr. Trump indicates that voters did not view this as an issue important enough to be factor in their decision. There is also one significant difference between President Trump and most other Presidents: Mr. Trump made all his money in the private sector. Public sector salaries are a matter of public record. For instance, anyone interested in the salary of any state or local government employee in the state of Nevada can do a search on the web. Private sector salaries have typically been confidential. It may be important for voters to ensure that an elected official did not unduly use his powers in office to gain a financial advantage. That argument is not valid for someone who has spent his entire life in the private sector.
As for the demonstrations, chances are, none of the demonstrators voted for him and they probably won’t vote for him regardless of what he does with his tax returns. Even if he releases all his tax returns and those returns show that he paid hundreds of millions in taxes, that will still not satisfy those who took to the streets last weekend.
If President Trump decides to release his tax returns, the partisan media will scrutinize every trivial investment and create a conflict of interest even if none exists. For instance, if he owns a mutual fund that invested in Lockheed Martin, he would be accused of benefiting from increasing defense spending. If he owns stock in an oil company, he would be accused of benefiting by reducing solar subsidies. Such a conversation would merely add to the noise and would take our focus away from real issues we face as a nation.
One final point. If Trump did not pay the taxes he owes, IRS should penalize him. For most voters, what matters is the fact the President was willing to send a clear message to Syria when Assad crossed the red line and used chemical weapons. What matters is the fact that we are leveraging our trade with China to pressure North Korea. For most Americans, it is important that the President keeps our taxes low, employment high and the economy strong not what he made or how much he paid in taxes as a private citizen.