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What Trump's Taxes Would Not Show About His Finances

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What Trump's Taxes Would Not Show About His Finances

Politics

What Trump's Taxes Would Not Show About His Finances

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Today's federal income tax deadline has triggered new calls for President Trump to reveal his taxes as other presidents have done. Trump has repeatedly refused to do so, saying he is under an IRS audit. As NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, the returns would shed some light, but not as much as you might think.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Chanting) No more secrets.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) No more lies.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: This weekend, demonstrators in Palm Beach and elsewhere were once again calling on President Trump to release his tax returns. The president's critics say that before he makes any changes in the tax code, Americans deserve to know how he might benefit from them. And that means they need to see what's in the returns.

Noah Bookbinder is executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

NOAH BOOKBINDER: When he has tweeted out the pictures of his tax returns, it's stacks of paper that are inches and maybe feet high. It's many hundreds of pages. So just - just there, you know that there's a lot of information.

ZARROLI: Information about how much Trump makes, his charitable giving and the deductions and loopholes he takes advantage of. They could also help show how much money he makes overseas.

But Lee Sheppard, contributing editor at Tax Notes, says there's a lot that won't be in the returns.

LEE SHEPPARD: A tax return is not an all-purpose financial-disclosure document in the United States.

ZARROLI: Sheppard says much of Trump's income appears to come from licensing agreements, leasing out his name to sell real estate and luxury goods. The returns will say how much he earned and the name of the partnership paying him, but not the identities of the partners.

They also won't say who invested in real estate projects he owns directly. Sheppard says that as a real estate developer, Trump probably has a lot of what is called non-recourse debt, loans backed not by him personally, but by the real estate project being built. The returns will show how much interest he paid on that debt, but not who lent him the money.

SHEPPARD: When the people who are griping about the tax returns say, we want to know you're beholden to, they're saying they want to know who the lenders are. That is not listed on the tax return.

ZARROLI: Sheppard says the returns probably won't reveal anything about Trump's ties to Russia and China, nor will they say anything about his true net worth. Some of this information is listed in disclosure documents filed during the campaign last year, but in very general terms. Sheppard says to find out more about the president's finances would probably require Congress to act. But that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

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