Trump: 'My taxes are none of your business'
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump snapped yesterday over the chorus of calls for him to release his tax returns before the election, saying the rate that he pays is "none of your business".
Trump, who has virtually locked up the Republican Party's nomination for the November 8 presidential election, has said the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is auditing his returns and he wants to wait until the review is over before making them public.
"It should be and I hope it's before the election," Trump told ABC's 'Good Morning America'.
Mr Trump was asked why he had been willing in the past to release his taxes to Pennsylvania and New Jersey officials when seeking casino licences, even though he was being audited by the IRS.
"At the time, it didn't make any difference to me. Now it does," Mr Trump said.
Pressed on what tax rate he pays, Trump refused to say.
"It's none of your business," he said. "Before 1976, people didn't do it. It used to be a secret thing," he added.
US presidential nominees have voluntarily released their tax returns for decades.
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and her rival, Bernie Sanders, have both released their returns. Clinton began calling this week on Trump to do the same. Sanders released his 2014 return in April, while former first lady Clinton posted the past eight years of her and her husband's tax returns on her website in August.
Mr Trump has said there is nothing voters can learn from his tax filing. Tax filings show sources of income, both from within the United States and other countries, as well as charitable giving, investments, deductions and other financial information. Trump said his company was "clean".
"I don't have Swiss Bank accounts, I don't have offshore accounts," he said.
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has been scathing in his criticism of Trump and said this week it was "disqualifying" for a nominee to refuse to make his tax returns public.
"There is only one logical explanation for Mr Trump's refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them," Mr Romney said in a Facebook post this week.
But Mr Trump, who has prided himself on paying his own way and attacked his competition for relying on political donors, is now looking for donors himself.
Mr Trump, who recently hired a national finance chairman, has just scheduled his first fundraiser and is on the cusp of signing a deal with the Republican Party that would enable him to solicit donations of more than $300,000 apiece from supporters.
And his money-raising begins right away. The still-forming finance team is planning a dialling-for-dollars event on the fifth floor of Trump Tower in New York, and the campaign is at work on a fundraising website focused on small donations. In addition to a May 25 fundraiser at the Los Angeles home of real estate developer Tom Barrack, he'll hold another soon after in New York.
The political newcomer faces a gargantuan task as a general election campaign can easily run up a $1bn tab. For the primary race, Trump spent a tiny fraction of that amount - he's estimated $50m of his own money, plus about $12m from donors who sought his campaign out on their own.
Trump said in an interview this week that he will spend minimally on a data operation that can help identify and turn out voters. And he's betting that the media's coverage of his rallies and celebrity personality will reduce his need for pricey television advertising.
Yet he acknowledged that the general-election campaign may cost "a lot". To help raise the needed money, he tapped Steven Mnuchin, a New York investor with ties in Hollywood and Las Vegas but no political fundraising experience.
"To me, this is no different than building a business, and this is a business with a fabulous product: Donald Trump," Mnuchin said in an interview at a financial industry conference in Las Vegas.
Trump's new national finance chairman said prospective donors are "coming out of the woodwork" and he's been fielding emails and phone calls from people he hasn't heard from in 20 years.
Trump's dilemma is that by asking for money, he could anger supporters who love his assertion that he's different from most politicians because he isn't beholden to donors.