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Horowitz: Trump Has It Backwards on Releasing His Taxes

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Rob Horowitz

President Trump keeps insisting because he won the election without releasing his taxes, he shouldn’t have to release them, now that he occupies the oval office. He has it exactly backwards.

If Trump had lost, he would be back in private life and then his taxes would be between himself, his accountant, and the IRS.  As President, roughly 7-in-10 Americans, according to recent polling, still expect him to adhere to the bi-partisan tradition honored bye every one of his predecessors since Nixon, and make his income taxes public. Given his far-flung business empire, which presents many potential conflicts of interest, it is arguably far more important for Trump to release his taxes than it was for any previous President.

Trump’s all too familiar and still nonsensical response to the thousands of people in at least 150 cities throughout the nation who marched this past Saturday, calling on Trump to release his taxes, was essentially “I won; get over it.”  Trump tweeted, “I did what was almost an impossible thing to do for Republican-easily won the Electoral College. Wow Taxes are brought up again?  And in a follow-up tweet, he asserted that “someone  should look into who paid for the small organized rallies.”

President Trump didn’t even bother to trot out the threadbare excuse he used during the campaign: that he couldn’t release his taxes because he was being audited. Since all presidents’ taxes are automatically audited, the shelf life for that never truly credible reason has probably expired.

Trump and his spokespeople argue that people really don’t care if he releases his taxes or not.  It is the case, that there are issues of greater importance to voters. But this misses the point. A substantial majority of voters believe that President Trump is dishonest and his failure to release his income taxes, combined with his shifting ana unpersuasive reasons for not doing so, contributes to this impression.

He is also breaking one of the cardinal rules of effective and trust-building communication, which is to break the bad news yourself. There is a good chance that he will be required to supply his income taxes as the Congressional Investigations into Russian efforts to influence the election proceed.   The information contained in his taxes will seem much more explosive, if their release is forced. Voters will conclude that he was trying to hide something, even if there is not a lot of new information there.

Most importantly, releasing his taxes is the right thing to do.  President Trump should also reverse his ill-advised decision to stop releasing the logs of visitors to the White House.  As Louis Brandeis famously said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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