As most everyone is aware, Trump has refused to release his tax returns, breaking precedent with decades of presidential candidates and president’s release of tax returns. Even Dick Cheney, grumpy corporatist veep, released his tax returns. I had fun using them as the raw material for an introductory course in federal income taxation where we looked at the returns to understand how the various “lines” correspond to items specified in the Code (like “adjusted gross income” and “miscellaneous deductions”).
Trump, however, used various excuses, none of them particularly strong, to say he “couldn’t” release his returns. The main excuse was that his returns were under audit. Of course, that makes no difference whatsoever. Any taxpayer can release returns, whether or not they are under audit, and other presidential candidates (Nixon comes to mind) have done so during an audit period. Trump most likely didn’t want to release his tax returns because he didn’t want to provide fodder to critics who would look at the relatively measly amounts of taxes that he had to pay, or find information about trusts and other entities set up to keep money of shore or, who knows, find information about connections to various Russian oligarchs. Another reason that Trump likely hasn’t wanted to release his returns–he wants to be able to pretend that he is not a beneficiary of all those many loopholes in the Code that particularly benefit the ultra-wealthy.
That comes to the surface now, because of his claims, in an Indianapolis speech, that he would not receive any benefit from the so-called “reform” tax “framework” put out by Trump and the GOP leadership. We know from 2005 returns that he has, at least in that year, had to pay $31 million in Alternative Minimum Taxes (AMT) in a year when he would otherwise have paid very little in taxes. That is, in fact, the purpose of the AMT–to force wealthy taxpayers to pay some tax on their incomes when they otherwise have the ability to take advantage of so many loopholes that they would get off pretty much tax free. So we know that Trump lied when he said in Indianapolis that he would not get a benefit from his own tax proposal. His tax proposal would eliminate the AMT backstop for wealthy payment of at least some taxes. That would directly benefit Trump. He lied.