A CNN report revealed that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has previously released tax returns while being audited by the IRS, undermining his and Fox figures’ defense that a current, ongoing IRS audit of Trump’s taxes precludes him from having to release his tax returns.
Trump Says IRS Audit Prevents Him From Releasing Tax Returns
NBC News: Trump “Likely Won’t Be Releasing” His Tax Returns Before The Election Because Of “An Audit Of His Returns Since 2009.” Trump said he likely won't release his tax returns before November, due to an IRS “audit of his returns since 2009,” NBC News reports. Trump recently told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he’d release his returns “If the auditors finish. I'll do it as fast as the auditors finish ... I can't do it until I'm finished with the audit." [NBC News, 5/12/16]
Fox Figures Claim Audit Of Trump’s Taxes Means Releasing Them Is A “Nonstarter”
Fox’s Lou Dobbs: “Why Should [Trump] Turn Over His Tax Returns When He Is Being Audited?” Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs defended Trump’s justification for not releasing his tax returns because of an audit, saying, “Why should he turn over his tax returns when he is being audited?” From the May 11 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): According to the Associated Press, Donald Trump says he will not, not release his tax returns, because quote, “There's nothing to learn from them.” In the past, Mr. Trump has said he will not make his returns public because he is being audited by the IRS, but the service says nothing prevents Mr. Trump from releasing his tax returns. With us now, Fox Business Network superstar Lou Dobbs. Should he release his returns?
LOU DOBBS: My opinion, absolutely not. Why should he turn over his tax returns when he is being audited? A. B. When he is facing a hostile national media that -- no matter how pristine those returns -- is going to find something to pick at and blow up into and then use it as some sort of shiny object to distract from the issues. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 5/11/16]
Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt: It’s A “Nonstarter” To Ask Trump To Release His Returns During An Audit. Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said it was a “nonstarter” for Trump to release his tax returns while being audited, and co-host Brian Kilmeade said “He’s under audit. But he did have his financial disclosure forms … that’s good enough for me.” From the May 12 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): [Trump] was on with Greta last night and he was saying, even if I could -- I can't release them because my attorney is saying I can't, we're in the middle of an audit. So it's really a nonstarter, isn't it?
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): I will say this. Steve, he's under audit. But he did have his financial disclosure form that said he made in 2014 $362 million. That's good enough for me. Alright? Some golf courses lost money, some didn't. What difference does it make? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/12/16]
Fox’s Greta Van Susteren: “If I Were Your Lawyer,” “I Would Tell You Not To Release” Your Returns While Being Audited. Fox host Greta Van Susteren told Donald Trump “If I were your lawyer,” “I would tell you not to release” your returns while being audited. From the May 11 edition of Fox News’ On The Record:
DONALD TRUMP: No lawyer would say release it when you're under audit. And these are very simple audits. It should --
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN (HOST): I agree. I'm a lawyer. I wouldn't have someone --
TRUMP: If you represented me and I'm under audit, and it's a routine audit.
VAN SUSTEREN: I would tell you not to release. I agree. If I were your lawyer. [Fox News, On The Record, 5/11/16]
Fox’s Dana Perino: “I Don’t Blame [Trump] For Saying That He Can’t” Release His Tax Returns While Being Audited. Fox co-host Dana Perino said, “I don't blame [Trump] for saying that he can't” release his returns, and co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle said, “It is not advisable” to release returns while being audited, because “under advice of counsel you would be told, and by your accountant, to not do so.” From the February 26 edition of Fox News’ The Five:
DANA PERINO (CO-HOST): I don't blame him for saying that he can't do that. But the IRS apparently, Kimberly, says that he's allowed to.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Well, he's allowed to, but then, nevertheless, under advice of counsel you would be told, and by your accountant, to not do so. Greta made that point earlier, talking about that saying. Look, I don't blame him. I wouldn't tell him -- if I was representing him, I would say don't, wait, stand down. Now, once that's cleared up, who knows how long it's going to take to do that. Then, you can proceed, but it’s just not advisable. [Fox News, The Five, 2/26/16]
But The IRS Commissioner Said Months Ago Audits Do Not Preclude Candidates From Releasing Tax Returns
IRS Commissioner: Even “If You’re Being Audited,” And “You Want To” Release Your Tax Returns, “You Can Do That.” After Trump said “he couldn’t release his tax returns because he was being audited” in February, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen responded that an audit did not prevent someone from releasing their returns, saying, “From our standpoint, if you’re being audited, and you want to do something else, share that information with your returns, you can do that.” [Politico, 2/26/16]
And Trump Has Previously Released Tax Returns While Being Audited
CNN: “Trump Has Handed Over Tax Returns In The Midst Of Audits Before.” CNN reported that “Trump has handed over tax returns in the midst of audits before -- to state gambling officials in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as part of the process of seeking casino licenses in those states,” noting, “At least some of the federal and state tax returns he gave Pennsylvania were the subject of ongoing audits at the time.” CNN reported that though “Trump insists he won't release his tax returns ... because those returns are the subject of ongoing Internal Revenue Service audits ... When he's had casinos on the line, it's been a different story.” From the May 11 CNN report:
Donald Trump insists he won't release his tax returns during his 2016 presidential run because those returns are the subject of ongoing Internal Revenue Service audits.
When he's had casinos on the line, it's been a different story.
Trump has handed over tax returns in the midst of audits before -- to state gambling officials in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as part of the process of seeking casino licenses in those states.
The returns haven't been publicly accessible, but they were used by the state investigators who reviewed those applications.
At least some of the federal and state tax returns he gave Pennsylvania were the subject of ongoing audits at the time. Trump in March released a letter from his attorneys saying that every tax return he's filed since 2002 was audited, and the returns for 2009 and every year since are still the subject of ongoing audits.
Asked why Trump would share returns that were the subject of ongoing audits with state casino licensing officials, but won't release his tax returns now, spokeswoman Hope Hicks would only say in an email Wednesday: “Mr. Trump has always said that when the routine audit is complete he would release his tax returns.” [CNN, 5/11/16]