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President-elect Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he does not plan to release his tax returns, which will make him the first U.S. president in 40 years to not do so.
“I’m not releasing tax returns, because as you know I’m under audit,” Trump said at a press conference, his first in nearly six months.
Since February 2015, Trump has claimed that he is unable to release his tax returns since they are being audited by the IRS . The IRS has stated that being under audit does not prohibit a person from releasing their tax returns. Further, Trump’s tax returns predating 2009 are no longer under audit.
Major party nominees in the past 40 years of U.S. presidential elections have released their tax returns in the interest of financial transparency. Trump’s refusal breaks that tradition. Now that Trump has been elected president, he is under no legal obligation to release his tax returns.
“The only ones that care about my tax returns are reporters,” Trump added at the press conference. But most Americans do care about Trump’s tax returns, according to polls.
A Pew Research poll released this week found that 60 percent of Americans believe Trump has a responsibility to release his tax returns. However, the sentiment is largely split along partisan lines, with 72 percent of Democrats saying he has such a responsibility compared to 38 percent of Republicans who agree. That’s down from August when a Quinnipiac University poll found that 74 percent of Americans held this view, including 62 percent of Republican voters.
Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns has further frustrated critics who say the financial documents are crucial to finding out the extent of the businessman’s ties with Russia. There are also wider concerns about conflicts of interest inherent in Trump’s vast business empire, control of which he announced on Wednesday would be handed over to his sons.
A widely disputed and unverified dossier reportedly compiled by a former British intelligence official released by BuzzFeed on Tuesday night has drawn the ire of Trump and many in the media alike. Trump insisted in a Wednesday morning tweet that he had no business deals or loans with Russia, a claim he repeated during the press conference.
Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Trump attorney Sheri Dillon insisted on Wednesday that all of Trump’s business and financial assets would be put in a trust, but the trust would not be blind.
Trump “further instructed that we build in protections that will assure the American people that the decisions that he makes and the actions he takes as president are for their benefit,” Dillon said, “and not to support his financial interests.”
Amrita Khalid is a technology and politics reporter who specializes in breaking down complex issues into practical, useful terms. A former contributor to CQ, a Congressional news and analysis site, she's currently a master's candidate in international relations at the University of Leeds.