Donald Trump doesn’t want you to see his tax returns. The Republican nominee has bucked decades of precedent, by refusing to subject his tax filings to public inspection. His official rationale for doing so is that he can’t because he is being audited by the IRS. But the IRS has explained to him and the American people that he can do whatever he wants with his returns.
This has fostered much speculation about what the mogul is hiding. At Monday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton suggested he may owe money to nefarious special interests or, perhaps, doesn’t want the American people to see that he pays no federal income tax. After all, the few returns that we do have access to from the early ’90s show the self-identified billionaire paying approximately zero percent of his income to Uncle Sam.
When Clinton raised this history, Trump took it as a compliment.
“That makes me smart,” Trump interrupted, at the mention of his tax avoidance.
Moments later, Trump seemed to confirm that he still, to this day, does not pay any income tax. After the GOP nominee argued that America is in debt because Clinton wasted money on interventions overseas, Clinton replied that, actually, we’re in debt because her rival doesn’t pay federal taxes.
“It would be squandered, too,” Trump replied.
This is the small-government conservative line on paying taxes. And Trump isn’t exactly the first Republican nominee to brand his low tax rate as a sign of his competence (see: Romney, Mitt).
So, not necessarily a damaging moment. But still, possibly, a revelatory one.