More than 80 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say Donald Trump should release his income tax returns to the public.
Among Democrats, 94 percent say he should, compared with 76 percent of Republicans.
Since the mid-1970s, all Democratic and Republican presidential nominees have released their income tax returns to the public.
Last Friday, Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton became the latest to do so; Clinton released the 2015 return she filed with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has not released any tax returns, saying he will not do so while under audit by the Internal Revenue Service. In response to questions from news organizations, the IRS earlier this year issued a statement that said “nothing prevents individuals from sharing their own tax information.”
In 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney released two years of tax returns, as Republican Sen. John McCain did in the 2008 race. As a candidate that year, Barack Obama released seven years of returns; by 2012, he had released 12 years of his returns.
According to FactCheck.org, McCain was the first major-party presidential candidate from 1980 to 2012 to release fewer than five tax returns. During that period, Republican Robert Dole set the high mark with 30 in 1996. The Clintons now have made their tax returns public for every year dating back to 1977, her campaign says.
Roughly 930 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Aug.15 and 16.
Should Donald Trump release his income tax returns to the public now?
Yes: 76 percent
No: 24 percent
Yes: 94 percent
No: 16 percent
How many years of income tax returns should a presidential candidate release?
More than 12: 6%
What is your political affiliation?
Tax returns can be complicated, but they still give a window into a person’s financial life. They should be examined with caution, however. For example, an absence of itemized donations to charity could be for many reasons: a) the person gives nothing to charity, b) the person has an external foundation that is used for charitable donations, c) because of a person’s income level, it might not be worthwhile to itemize. In addition, a person should not be maligned for taking full advantage of the convoluted tax code. If Trump releases his taxes, and if it turns out he legally pays virtually nothing, it should not be a cause for vilifying him personally. No sane person pays more in taxes than he legally must. If we want to rectify what we think is an inequity, then we need to change—simplify—the tax code. Unfortunately, there are too many special interest groups lobbying for their special perks to remain, so this will never happen.
Absolutely! Donald Trump not releasing his returns risks leaving voters to imagine the worst.
I guess with all the pay-to-play income that at least one other presidential candidate has coming in through a “charitable foundation,” we should focus on what “loopholes” the Donald has taken advantage of on his tax return. Regardless of what party you align yourself with, doesn’t this seem a little hypocritical?
—Miguel San Lui, Brockport
Showing one’s IRS records for the previous five years should be a requirement for all candidates running for office.
—Al Schnucker, Schnucker Packaging Inc.
I don’t understand why this is anyone’s business. If there was anything illegal, candidates should be prosecuted. No matter the answer any Republican chooses, the media will skew it to advance their narrative.
Being audited has nothing to do with Trump not releasing his tax returns. It is an effective strategy he is using. He doesn’t want the public to know how much money he makes (or loses) and doesn’t want the public to know he doesn’t likely pay any income taxes due to his real estate holdings. This strategy allows him to not share what is likely to do him harm in the eye of the voter and instead frames it in a way that makes him look like he is being victimized by the government, which helps him connect with the voter. Where instead he is a member of the upper 1 percent, who are not paying their fair share of income taxes, due to the tax code, and the voters believe they are helping to support financially.
I have never believed in this for any candidate. What does it matter if Hillary releases her tax return info to make us try to believe she is an upstanding taxpayer when she has lied about top secret emails and placed the nation in unimaginable danger by deliberately mismanaging secret documents for her own convenience? She is unfit to lead this nation.
Of course he should.
—Stuart Small, Pittsford Insurance
Of course he should! He doesn’t because the returns would show not what he has, what he makes, how much he pays in taxes, how rich he is—the tax returns would show us that he is full of baloney. The tax returns would show us what he does not have. The tax returns would expose him as a charlatan.
It is a powerful demonstration of a candidate’s personal morality and ethics. We cannot trust those who hide their finances.
Of course he should. Transparency. Clear, visible and revealing.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster
If Trump is under audit, he should wait till the audit is complete. Audits for high-income earners are frequent. Hillary and the Dems will try to use the audit-disputed items against him.
—Joel Stauring, Cunningham, Stauring & Associates
If he is in the middle of an audit as he says he is, then he should not release his tax returns. … Also, it doesn’t matter to me what a candidate pays in taxes. If he legally paid $0 in taxes last year I wouldn’t have anything negative to say. Paying high taxes is indicative of high earnings but not necessarily high productivity. The tax code rewards people for contributing to society the things that government cannot, so if someone has legally avoided taxes, then I’d rather learn how they did so, instead of criticizing them.
—Damien Pagano, Rochester
Yes, Mr. Trump should release his tax return. But Mrs. Clinton should also release financial records from the Clinton Family Foundation and text of some of her speeches to Wall Street firms. I would also be in favor of both candidates releasing medical records.
Trump once said that if he ran, he’d release his returns. In addition, it has become a de facto requirement of all candidates since the ’70s. Even his running mate is releasing his. His “audit” claim has been refuted consistently and categorically, so his continuing reliance on that excuse speaks volumes, too. But most importantly, it would shed light on some of his claims, and that’s probably the biggest reason he has been refusing so far—he’s hiding some big, damaging secrets.
—Andy Vaughan, Mendon
What any man or woman earns is between him or her and the IRS. That is since the passage of the 16th Amendment and its ratification on Feb. 3, 1913. Michael Bloomberg got away with not showing his taxes for the New York City mayoral election, so why can’t Donald Trump not show his tax returns for the presidential election?
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services P.C.
Mr. Trump has made claims about “rigging” that may very well apply to his income tax reporting, certainly when he makes unfounded claims about voter fraud, the same logic applies to the possibility of fraud on income tax returns.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
No good would come of Trump releasing his tax returns.
When Mitt Romney stalled and dodged in 2012 before releasing only two years of returns, I thought it was a good indication that he was hiding something sordid in earlier years, like maybe that he took advantage of an IRS amnesty for tax dodgers with offshore bank accounts. How supremely ironic that even Romney now says Trump’s recalcitrance may be hiding a bombshell.
A free society is not free. I want to know whether a person who seeks to be the leader of our society has contributed fairly to it, or has worked hard to avoid their responsibility.
What is he hiding?
I am not a lawyer, but all my attorney friends said that they would strongly recommend that he does not release his tax returns until this audit is complete. Just the fact that he seems to be audited every year is an indication that the IRS is out to sting him, no matter what his political affiliation or his thought process is. If the Democrats feel that they have something to gain by him releasing his tax returns at this time, then they should jump on the IRS to complete the audit ASAP, so then he would not have an excuse to not release them. I’m confident that Obama and Hillary both have enough influence with the IRS to make that happen if they really thought it was to their advantage.
—B. Moser, Canandaigua
Of course Trump should release his tax returns. The only reason “the Donald” is not releasing his tax returns is that he has something to hide. Either that he pays little to no taxes by taking advantage of every tax loophole there is and/or that he makes no charitable contributions despite claiming to be a billionaire, unlike the Democratic candidate who contributed 9.8 percent of her income.
Trump has a credibility problem. This is a step in right direction; otherwise I couldn’t trust and wouldn’t be able to vote for him. This is a baby step, and if he is going to “walk (the walk and talk) his talk,” then start here.
—Daniel Herpst, Rochester
Actually, we could debate this forever, and I doubt it would mean a thing, as there are so many loopholes/interpretations etc. that makes them meaningless. However, what is good for the goose should be good for the gander, and whatever the requirements are going to be, they should be solidly stated up front, not during the campaign.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Interesting we are so distracted by a candidate’s tax returns. Look at what is going on in this country and around the world. A tax return is important, sure, but let’s just look at what we already know about the candidates. We have a wealthy businessman who can’t control his tongue or his ego and a criminal conspirator with an ego that is supported by lies. And we want to look at tax returns? Fellow Americas, we can do better than this!
Of course he should release his tax returns. Let’s see if his words match the facts. If he doesn’t release them then everyone is free to speculate “what is he hiding?” I’ll bet he doesn’t release them.
—Pete Bonenfant, Fairport
Every other presidential candidate for decades has done so. What makes Trump special? Well, one thing does: His greatest claim to fame is business success. His tax returns may be the only measure of this claim that can verify it and are not subject to bombast and exaggeration.
Trump should release the tax returns, but the media and Democrats will only use them to trap him. If he legally used deductions to escape tax, it only shows how convoluted the tax code is!
All candidates for whatever office should release their tax returns for numerous years. This way the voting public can see if they are paying their fair share like the rest of us. The voting public can see if they are truthful in their campaigning. The voting public can see how they are making their money. If they don’t want to release numerous years of tax returns then they are hiding something.
Time to put to rest whether candidate Trump’s representations of his wealth are consistent with income and sources reported to the IRS. The excuse of it being “under audit” is by now too-worn and if there is really “nothing to learn” as candidate Trump has stated, then we will find nothing contrary to what he has said during his campaign.
Absolutely, he needs to release his tax returns. It should be “automatic” at the presidential level. Just have the IRS do it. He is taking all of this time to redact the document to hide all of his tax loopsholes. While we are at it, let’s audit all of the top candidates to look for tax fraud. Seriously, what is he hiding?
Precedent would suggest that Trump ought to release a year or two of returns. However, a tax return is a private and privileged document and should he choose to keep it private, that’s his choice. The same is true for any other candidate.
—Hal Gaffin, Fairport
8/19/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.