Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a young political candidate who thought people would praise his transparency if he released 20 years’ worth of income tax returns, going all the way back to when he was first married. Alas, nobody gave him credit for his honesty or charitable giving. The only people who cared were his political opponents, who poured over his forms, hunting for any obscure item they could wrench out of context and turn into attack ads. The unsurprising twist: that young candidate was me. And the moral I learned was: “Never help somebody load a gun when it’s pointed at your own head. It’s not going to end well.”
Donald Trump is the latest candidate to be pressured to release his income tax forms. My Reaganesque advice to him: “Just say no!” Some have tried to interpret that as me favoring Trump, but I’ve given this same advice to candidates for years: Don’t release your personal tax forms. Trump, like every other candidate, is required by law to release detailed financial information. It must be signed under oath to verify that it’s accurate on penalty of perjury. Trump has done that, and it’s available for all to see.
Personally, I think that’s better than income tax returns. We all know how complicated tax forms are, particularly for someone like Trump. No average human can comprehend them; that’s why we have to pay experts to do our taxes. Do you really think some junior reporter at the Washington Post will understand Trump’s voluminous tax forms? If he did, he’d be a seven-figure CPA.
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I was disappointed to see Mitt Romney suggest that Trump might be hiding something in his tax returns. That’s the same kind of baseless innuendo that Harry Reid aimed at Romney in 2012. If Trump becomes the nominee, he’ll likely release his tax forms. But for now, he’s complied with federal disclosure laws, and his personal tax forms are nobody’s business but his own.
I know the argument: if he doesn’t release them, the media will beat him up. News flash: if he does release them, no matter what’s in them, the media will still find some reason to beat him up. I learned from bitter experience: when you’re a Republican, even if you’ve got nothing to hide, the media and your political opponents will find something anyway. Why make their job easier?
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