Why Won't Donald Trump Release His Tax Returns? There's No Real Reason For Him Not To

Donald Trump's rationale for not releasing his tax returns has shifted through the course of the election cycle. First he said he'd think about it. Then he said he'd do it when Hillary Clinton released her emails. Then he said he was being audited. But after this sea change of reasons why it would be difficult to release the information, we still have no tax returns. So, why won't Donald Trump release his tax returns? That depends on which day you ask him, but it's safe to say there's not a great reason why.

This week, Anderson Cooper asked Trump if he would consider releasing a statement from the IRS saying that he was under audit. And on Wednesday, the Trump campaign released a statement on the letterhead of his tax attorney that proved that his tax returns from 2009 and onward are under audit. So there! He wasn't lying and he really can't release his tax returns. Right?

Well, no. The IRS pointed out that Trump technically isn't barred from releasing anything, but another tax attorney that the Washington Post spoke with agreed that releasing them while under audit wasn't an entirely smart move. Steve Goldburg, an attorney who specializes in tax law, told the paper to think of an audit like an investigation. Lawyers often counsel people under trial not to speak to the media. It's similar for someone undergoing a tax audit.

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Ha! Trump wins again. He's definitely in the clear now. Except, wait. There's another part to that statement that his campaign released. The letter stated that Trump's "tax returns for the years 2002 through 2008 have been closed administratively by agreement with the IRS without assessment or payment, on a net basis, of any deficiency." Well, that sounds pretty serious. Surely if it is "closed administratively," you can't just release stuff willy nilly, right?

Not so. WaPo spoke with Mark Everson, the former commissioner of internal revenue at the IRS and, if you'll remember, once a 2016 presidential contender. Everson, apparently feeling a little sassy, broke down all of the legalese. Apparently, saying that the audits were closed "without assessment of payment" just means that Trump filed the taxes.

"Well, bravo for Mr. Trump!" Everson told the paper. "That's a great result! And if that's the case, certainly one would say, why wouldn't you release those returns?" Well, sassy Everson, probably because he doesn't want to.

So why won't Trump release the tax returns? It seems that question is just as futile as anything anyone could ask of Trump, in that there's no real reason aside from the mogul's whims.