In any modern Democracy there are traditions and procedures that are not written in any law or form part of any rule book, yet they are accepted as a fundamental part of that country’s political practices. In the United States one of these practices is for candidates to release their tax returns and in the last presidential campaign the winning candidate refused to do so. Tuesday gave us proof this issue is still not settled.

Win and loss

#Donald Trump’s tax returns became a recurring theme of the campaign with his repeated incorrect reply that they were under audit and so were not as yet available. The IRS then replied that there was no reason for him not to release the returns.

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After the win the reply became that since he won the returns obviously had no importance to the public and therefore he would not release them. This reply of course ignores the fact that he lost the popular vote.

On Tuesday MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow first announced that she had the documents and then revealed some of the details of the 2005 return. While the details provided were not sufficient to make a definitive opinion on the return the fact that in that year the then businessman was subject to the “alternative minimum tax” which he now intends abolishing raised more than a few eyebrows.

However, the issue must be seen in another light and not on the simple basis of political voyeurism as some consider the repeated requests that they be released.

Controversy

It would not be unreasonable to state that the Trump presidency began under controversy and many of the issues that raised these controversies could be resolved by the disclosure of the recalcitrant tax returns.

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The allegations of Russian interference in the presidential campaign in favour of the winning candidate is now under investigation, yet these investigations too are subject to rumours that could be dispelled or confirmed by the returns.

Since virtually the beginning of his run for office #Donald Trump was the subject of rumours of business dealings in Russia and even of debts with Russian banks. These rumours only damage the Oval Office and it would be in the best interest of the prestige of the position and also the reputation of the country that such rumours be dispelled completely and as quickly as possible. So far this has not happened.

Transparency and legality

The matter of the missing returns is therefore one of transparency to remove the clouds under which the White House has been navigating since November 8th. The citizens have a right to know the real situation of their president and repeated reassurances are not a replacement for definitive proof.

The release of the return drew criticism for their dubious legality, but #Rachel Maddow replied that the first Amendment protects her right as the matter is one of public interest.

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This reply may not satisfy some within the Trump team but the White House, beginning with the man who now leads the country, must also understand that regulations governing his position are not the same as those for a private businessman.

From the moment he took the Oath of Office in January 8th he became answerable to the public. For this reason alone many journalists and politicians repeat their calls for the returns to be released.

Investigations and after

For the present time last night’s scoop on MSNBC will not affect the political landscape, but this may well change in the future. The country is awaiting the results of the investigations into the Russian hacking of the election and these results may well force the Oval Office to make the returns public.

Would it not be better for #The President to release them voluntarily and thus be able to control their impact, rather than find himself in a situation where he may no longer have control of proceedings? As always, the ball is now in his court