Donald Trump told an interviewer in May that the income taxes he pays are "none of your business." But for candidates who were auditioning to be his vice president, similar reluctance wasn't an option.
In a Thursday talk delivered through Facebook, Trump vice president finalist Newt Gingrich said the campaign required him to submit more than one decade's worth of tax returns as part of the vetting process.
"They wanted all my taxes back until 2004," Gingrich said. "That was a mound, just a whole stack of tax material."
Scrutinizing a potential vice presidential candidate's tax returns is a standard practice for both parties. In a 2012 editorial, the lawyer picked by Trump's campaign to help with vetting described the review of tax returns as a cornerstone component of the vice presidential selection process.
"Trump clearly wanted to see the tax returns to see if there's a problem there," said Joseph Thorndike, a tax historian and contributing editor to Tax Analysts, an accounting trade publication. "The presidential candidate is the watchdog checking up on the VP. But there is no watchdog for Trump himself - and that's a problem."
Though every modern presidential candidate has released his or her tax returns, Trump has backed away from past promises to do so. Trump said at a Republican debate in February that he could not release his returns because they were under audit.
Tax scholars and former IRS officials have said the IRS does not forbid the release of tax filings; Richard Nixon released his returns while under audit in 1973.
Asked why Trump had demanded to see tax forms that he has said voters should not necessarily expect to see from him, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said he still planned to release the documents after the IRS review is complete.
Thorndike said he understood Trump's reluctance to make such documents public if he is currently undergoing an audit. But he called precedent for releasing the records strong.
"If it's reasonable for Trump to want to make sure his potential running mates are doing their taxes on the up and up, it's equally reasonable for the American public to want to know the same about his taxes," he said.
Reporting by Jeff Horwitz
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