During a press briefing this afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the still-lingering issue of President Donald Trump‘s refusal to make his tax returns public.
The Trump team has consistently countered critics by saying that since the president’s returns are being audited, he cannot release them publicly. NBC‘s Hallie Jackson picked up on this issue and posed the following question, “You said, on Tuesday, that as long as [President Trump’s] taxes are under audit, he’s not going to release them; his 2016 taxes–to our knowledge–are not under audit–unless they are.” To which Sanders replied:
The president’s taxes, no matter who the president is, actually immediately go under audit after being filed.
Sanders’ full excuse, therefore, is that President Trump still can’t release his taxes because they’re presently subject to an automatic audit.
Except that’s not really the case.
While it is true that presidential tax returns are automatically audited by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) since the time of President Richard Nixon, nothing about the automatic audit actually prevents presidential tax returns from being released.
In 2015, President Barack Obama released his tax returns to the American public (so did Vice-President Biden). Obama’s tax returns were subject to the same mandatory audit provision of the IRS manual, but he released them anyway.
And lest the MAGA set think we’re being unfair by comparing Trump to Obama’s time in office, that’s not all.
According to the Tax History Project, almost every single president since Nixon has released their tax returns for every single year they’ve been in office–and every president since Nixon has been subject to that same mandatory audit provision in the IRS manual. The only currently unavailable tax returns are one each from Presidents George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter and all of those belonging to Gerald Ford–who only released summary data about tax years 1966-1975.
Nothing is stopping Trump from releasing his taxes–and to be clear, those returns will be under audit at least until he leaves the White House. But now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders has indicated that the president intends on using a perpetual, legalistic excuse not to release them.
[image via screengrab]