Donald J. Trump, the leader for the Republican presidential nomination, is happy to talk about how he pays the IRS as little as possible.
He's even taken to Twitter, his favorite social media platform, to do a little tax trash talking with some then White House wannabe competitors. During that exchange on the Oct. 15, 2015, extended filing deadline date, he shared a photo of himself signing his 2014 return.
But The Donald is not quite ready to actually let us see at least some of what was on all those tax forms.
Media calling for DJT tax returns: The Wall Street Journal in a Feb. 19 opinion piece challenged Trump to back up his claims of presidential competence based on business and financial success by showing voters "the proof beyond the gilded staircases. He could enhance his credibility on the point by releasing his tax returns."
The following Sunday, George Stephanopoulos of ABC's "This Week" cited the WSJ editorial and asked Mr. Trump, "Will you release [your tax returns] by Super Tuesday? Don’t Republican voters have a right to know?"
Trump says he is -- well, his people are -- working on it. But any public release of his taxes won't happen before voters in 14 states (along with American Samoa voters and U.S. citizens abroad) go to the polls or caucuses on March 1.
"No, no, no, I won't," Trump told Stephanopoulos. "I'm working on it. We're working on, they're massive. You saw pictures of me."
Trump delivered essentially the same message on Monday, Feb. 22, when pressed on the matter by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Hewitt pointed out, per a radio show transcript reported by The New York Times' First Draft column, that the GOP's last presidential nominee Mitt Romney "got killed on this four years ago. And you’ve got to get them out there as well."
“Well, we'll get them out at some point, probably," Trump replied. "I mean, I’m looking at it. I told my people the other day, start looking at it."
Size, audit cited in delay: The main reason it's taking a while to release the returns, Trump added, is that his filings are, wait for it, "among the largest."
Plus there are audit issues.
"I'm audited all the time by government," Trump told Hewitt. "And I think every single year, I've had an audit for years. And you know, other people, friends of mine say they never get audited. I say congratulations. I have audits every year. So it's, you know, one of those things. But we are working. They're very complex papers, but we're working on it."
I give Trump that. Audits are a pain, so you want to make sure that anything you open up for inspection won't invite added Internal Revenue Service inquiry.
But I suspect it's not just Uncle Sam's -- and New York City's and state's -- tax examiners that worry Trump.
It's more likely concern about the image he's painted of himself and his money.
If his sworn tax filings show his income isn't as huge as he likes to tell us it is, that will hurt Trump's ego much more than any questions from a tax collector.
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