In a statement Friday, the IRS said that federal privacy rules prohibit the agency from discussing individual tax matters, but “nothing prevents individuals from sharing their own tax information.”
While not citing Trump by name, the IRS also disputed the businessman's suggestions that he is being audited for political reasons or because he is a Christian.
“The IRS stresses that audits of tax returns are based on the information contained on the taxpayer’s return and the underlying tax law — nothing else,” the agency said. “Politics and religion do not factor into this. The audit process is handled by career, non-partisan civil servants, and we have processes in place to safeguard the exam process.”
Asked on CNN about the audits, Trump said: "Well, maybe because of the fact that I'm a strong Christian, and I feel strongly about it, maybe there's a bias."
There are many reasons why a taxpayer being audited might want to keep their tax returns private. However, Americans have come to expect that presidential candidates will disclose their returns, said Joseph Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project at
Tax Analysts, a leading provider of tax news and analysis.
“I’m sure a careful tax attorney would advise him not to disclose it in the middle of an audit,” Thorndike said of Trump. “But an attorney would say not to disclose it anytime.”
If Trump can’t handle a difficult audit, “he’s running for the wrong job,” said Thorndike, who has called for the New York City businessman and other presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
“It’s a willingness to say 'I’m asking for your trust, and I’m willing to provide this information to earn your trust,'” said Thorndike.