WHAT’S HE HIDING?

Trump Now on His Third New Reason To Not Release Tax Returns

First, Hillary had to release her emails. Then, it was being prepared. Now it’s an IRS auditing, which is either a lie or an admission of a very big problem.

02.26.16 9:45 PM ET

Donald Trump says he cannot release his tax returns because he is undergoing an audit that goes back “four or five years.”

But the Internal Revenue Service usually does not look back more than three years.

“Generally, the IRS can include returns filed within the last three years in an audit,” the agency’s website says. “Additional years can be added if a substantial error is identified.”

The IRS further reports, “The statute of limitations limits the time allowed to assess additional tax. The statute of limitations is generally three years after a return is due or was filed, whichever is later.” 

Either Trump is lying about undergoing such an audit as an excuse not to release his returns, or the IRS has found that his most recent return includes an error considerably bigger than a simple oversight.

Whatever the truth, an audit should not preclude releasing his returns.

Meanwhile, Trump has tweeted a photo of himself with a pen and a stack of papers.

“Signing a recent tax return—isn’t this ridiculous?” he wrote on Thursday.

In October, Trump had initially said that he would release his tax returns after Hillary Clinton released all her emails.

“But I will say this, and I’m very proud to say it, I think the country is run horribly. I hate what they do with our money,” Trump noted at the time. “And unlike everybody else, I try to pay as little tax as possible, because I hate what they do with my tax money.”

He added, “It’s a little tax.”

In January, Trump indicated that the release was imminent.

“We’re working on that now. I have big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” he told Meet the Press just before the Iowa caucuses.

Then, on Thursday night, Trump suddenly said he could not release his returns because he was being audited.

Either he had been notified of the audit in the past month or he was concocting a new excuse. He added that he had been audited every year and that this most recent one went back four or five years. He suggested to Anderson Cooper after the debate that the IRS may have targeted him for religious reasons.

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“Maybe because of the fact I’m a strong Christian,” said the man who merely put money in the communion plate at an Iowa church the Sunday before the caucus and apparently did not go to church at all the Sunday afterwards.

Trump had already been forthright about paying as little tax as possible, so he was not likely worried about such a revelation from the release of his returns. Some observers did wonder aloud if he was worried his returns would show he is less rich than he claims. He sought to counter that suggestion with a second tweet on Thursday.

“Just for your info, tax returns have 0 to do w/ someone’s net worth,” he wrote. “I have already filed my financial statements w/ FEC. They are great!”

One possible worry for Trump may be that his returns will put to lie his claim to be an “ardent philanthropist” who contributed considerable sums to veterans and victims of 9/11. His supposed generosity does not appear in the records of his Donald J. Trump Foundation, to which he happens to have donated not a penny in six years.

Someone who seeks to pay little tax would surely seek a deduction for any charitable giving. So his returns should show whatever he had, or had not, actually given.

“He doesn’t give away money,” says Barbara Res, who served as lead construction engineer during the building of Trump Tower and the renovation of the Plaza Hotel. “He’s not a charitable giver at all.”

But whatever is keeping him from releasing his returns, Trump likely has no real reason to fret.

Nobody seemed to care when he almost certainly lied when he said he “lost hundreds of friends” on 9/11.

And, if he can get away with lying about that, he can get away with lying about anything. He may not have been exaggerating all that much when he said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?”

“It’s like incredible,” he rightly added.

On Friday,  Trump convened a press conference to announce that he was being endorsed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had dropped his own bid for the presidency. Christie spoke, followed by Trump, who denounced Marco Rubio as a “lowlife” while saying Ted Cruz tells “reasonable lies.” Trump did not spare the media.

“I’ll tell you what, I think the media is among the most dishonest groups I’ve ever met,” Trump said.

At one point, Trump declared, “We have to be honest.”

Trump also spoke about Mitt Romney, who was belatedly among those who have called for him to release his tax returns, hinting there was a “bombshell” in them.

“He comes out and tells me about my taxes,” Trump said. “When did Romney file his return?”

Trump apparently meant release his tax returns.

“September 21st!” Trump said. “That’s a long time from now!”

Trump can keep using that excuse for months to come. He certainly seemed to have no intention to release his returns before next week’s 12 Republican primaries.

At the same time, Hillary Clinton has yet to release transcripts of her speeches for cash at Goldman Sachs.

So we approach the primaries with the leading Republican candidate and the leading Democratic candidate refusing to provide information that could be critical in making a clearheaded decision.

Call it Stupor Tuesday.