Sunday, August 21, 2016

Trump's Returns

I know I normally eschew current events, but I have been repeating this argument so many times in various forums that I decided to write a post about it so I can just provide a link, rather than rewrite it every time.

There is a strong feeling among many that Donald Trump is refusing to release his tax returns, not for any legitimate reason, but to hide something. There are many theories about precisely what he is hiding. Maybe he is worth a lot less than he claims, or owes more than he says. Maybe he owes to the wrong people, like the Russians. Maybe he just has set up his income so he pays no taxes. Or maybe he contributes very little, or what he contributes he gives to the wrong groups, such as Democrats. There are a number of theories, but the point is, he is hiding something, and I have to say, given his excuse for not releasing them, I believe he is hiding something.


Well, because his excuse, that he is being audited, makes no sense.

Allow me to explain.

What is being asked is a copy of Trump's tax returns, nothing more. Not his complete financial records, not his bank statements, nothing but his tax returns. And, to argue he cannot release them because of an audit makes no sense.

Think about it. What is a tax return? In this case it is a copy of paperwork. What paperwork? Specifically, a copy of the tax forms -- and supporting documents -- Trump sent to the IRS to show how much he believed he owed in taxes. The IRS took these papers, made copies, and filed them. Trump retained a copy, and that is what we are asking to see.

Why is this important? Because, the auditors, being members of the IRS, already have a copy! As I said above, what Trump would reveal would be nothing but a copy of documents he already sent to the government, documents the IRS already has, and -- most important -- documents the auditors already have! There is nothing they could reveal to the auditors, as the auditors already have the very same documents, and thus concealing them provides no benefit, and revealing them would do no harm.

So, why do people buy Trump's excuse?

Some, simply because they accept whatever he says. but many who dislike him accept it as well, and for a reason not too hard to understand. You see, it does seem similar to an argument that would be legitimate, and so, because we don't consider it in depth, it sounds plausible.

Here, allow me to give another example. Suppose I run a company that is publicly traded. I am being audited by the SEC. The public asks to see my corporate books. I refuse, making the excuse I am being audited and my lawyers tell me to not reveal those documents. THAT would be a legitimate argument. The auditors do not have all those records, unless they subpoenaed them, and thus to reveal them would be to give an advantage to the opposition. And that is what people imagine is the crux of Trump's argument. But it is not a good analogy.

A good analogy would be if I were in that situation and the public asked to see the papers I filed with the SEC, and I said I could not reveal them as I am being audited. As in Trump's case, this makes no sense, as the SEC auditors would already have those documents, so revealing them would be meaningless, it would reveal nothing to the auditors they don't already know. And the same is true in this case, as the auditors already have Trump's returns.

Of course, I doubt this will stop Trump fans from buying into his arguments, but I do hope it helps those who do not buy into everything he says from accepting his flimsy, nonsense excuse for not revealing his tax returns.

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