Is Trump Really Under Audit? His Tax Return Leak Casts Major Doubt

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On Tuesday evening, Rachel Maddow revealed a partial copy of Donald Trump's 2005 tax return on her show. The document sparked much interest, as Trump has refused to release any of his own tax returns. The release of the return lends insight not only into Trump's financial situation, but also into whether Trump is really under an IRS audit, as the president and his administration have repeatedly claimed.

Trump has famously refused to release his tax returns repeatedly, throughout the duration of both his presidential campaign and presidency, breaking with decades of American precedent. Typically, presidential candidates and presidents release years of complete tax returns to publicize the nature of their financial and business relationships, and eliminate any cause for speculation about financial or ethical impropriety. However, Trump isn't following suit, claiming that he is under audit by the IRS and cannot release his returns until the audit is finished.

While not acknowledging whether or not Trump is under audit (since they are prohibited from doing so), the IRS implied in February that Trump is free to release his returns, saying that no law prohibits someone from releasing taxes that are being audited. However, Trump still refused to release any tax information at all until Tuesday evening, when the White House preemptively released information about Trump's 2005 income and tax payments ahead of Maddow's reveal of the tax return on her show.

According to the Guardian, this preemptive release of tax information by the Trump administration indicates that the audit "excuse" repeatedly cited as the reason why Trump's tax returns cannot be released could essentially be bogus. In an interview for the same Guardian article, Zac Petkanas, a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, asserted that " Trump’s audit excuse is a sham. If they [the White House] can release some of the information, they can release all of the information."

The White House's release of tax information ahead of Maddow's reveal, coupled with the fact that Trump has never produced any evidence that he is being audited by the IRS, all bring the credibility of the audit claim seriously into question. Indeed, perhaps this is why Trump has occasionally shied away from blaming the audit for his lack of disclosure, also saying he simply will not release his tax returns because "he won" the election and he believes that the public is not interested in the information they contain.

Overall, in revealing Trump's income and tax burden for the year 2005, the release of Trump's tax return also perhaps revealed something more striking — how little the public still knows about Trump's taxes overall, including whether or not he is actually being audited, as he has consistently claimed.