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Wednesday 21 February 2018

Trump 'has no intention of releasing tax returns to the public'

US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said the public already has plenty of information about Mr Trump's finances (AP)
US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said the public already has plenty of information about Mr Trump's finances (AP)

Donald Trump "has no intention" of releasing his tax returns to the public, US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin said, asserting that Americans already have "plenty of information" about their president's financial matters.

For decades, American presidents have released their tax returns, but Mr Trump has so far refused, saying that he would share the tax documents only after the US Internal Revenue Service completes an "audit" of them.

He has never disclosed proof of an audit and tax lawyers say there is nothing preventing him from releasing his returns if he is undergoing one.

Mr Trump said before he launched his campaign that he would release his returns if he ever ran for office.

"If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns, absolutely," he told an Irish television station in 2014.

"And I would love to do that."

Mr Mnuchin appeared to close the door completely on this prospect.

He said: "The president has no intention. The president has released plenty of information and I think has given more financial disclosure than anybody else. I think the American population has plenty of information."

The comment came as the secretary briefed reporters on the president's new proposal to overhaul taxes.

Democrats have sought to use the tax debate to pressure Mr Trump to release his returns, arguing the information is necessary to evaluate how his tax proposals would affect his personal wealth and his business' bottom line.

Mr Mnuchin declined to comment on how the president would benefit from his proposals. He and other administration officials left the room as reporters shouted questions about how the plan would affect the Trump family.

Mr Trump, a billionaire, owns a global real estate, marketing and property management company. At the start of his presidency he placed this in a trust which he can revoke at any time.

His daughter and son-in-law, both White House advisers, are also holding onto significant business assets. Mr Trump's adult sons run his Trump Organisation.

Trump officials have offered varying explanations for why the president does not disclosure his returns.

White House senior counsellor Kellyanne Conway said in a television interview in January that the fact that he won the election without putting out the information shows that "people didn't care" about it.

Mr Trump's sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr have made similar points in various interviews, though recent polling suggests otherwise.

There is evidence the president has been thinking about the issue in recent weeks. His friend and Las Vegas business partner Phil Ruffin claimed the president had asked him whether he should publish the returns.

"I advised him not to," Mr Ruffin said.

"It's a waste of time, and he'll spend years explaining them and never get to accomplishing any of his goals."

Mr Ruffin said he told the president that Democrats would hire "armies of accountants" to pore over the documents and "make an issue out of any and everything".

Even with Mr Mnuchin's seemingly definitive answer, the issue of Mr Trump's tax returns is unlikely to go away. Democrats have threatened to hold up his tax proposals until they see the returns.

Senate finance committee ranking member Ron Wyden called the president's tax plan "unprincipled" - and one that "will result in cuts for the 1%, conflicts for the president, crippling debt for America and crumbs for the working people".

Democrats have also been pushing for a vote on a Bill that would require the president and all major-party nominees to publicly disclose their previous three years of tax returns to the Office of Government Ethics or the Federal Election Commission.

On Wednesday, Democratic members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz requesting that he allow a vote on the Presidential Tax Transparency Act.

They wrote: "As Members of Congress, we have the ability and duty to legislate in order to promote government transparency, combat conflicts of interest, and ensure compliance with the Constitution."

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a Democrat, also slammed Mr Trump's tax plan as "a half-baked collection of ideas that add up to a huge giveaway to Donald Trump and his rich friends".

"If your last name is Trump," he added, "this plan is great for your bottom line."


Press Association

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