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Flashback: Richard Nixon Released Tax Returns While Under Audit

Even Richard Nixon released his taxes while under audit

Donald Trump has said that the ongoing audit of his taxes has prevented him from releasing them to the public.

But according to Joseph Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts, Richard Nixon released his taxes while under audit.

As Thorndike recently wrote:

Nixon was not a guy naturally inclined to be transparent. But in the fall of 1973, he was in a world of hurt concerning his personal finances. In particular, critics were suggesting there was something fishy about his tax returns. Nixon defended himself, even insisting to one dubious audience that “I’m not a crook.”

But the questions kept coming, and eventually Nixon tried to clear things up by releasing his tax returns. In December 1973 he made the returns public and asked the congressional Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation (today called simply the Joint Committee on Taxation) to examine them for errors. (You can see examine Nixon’s returns for yourself by visiting the Tax History Project, which archives all presidential tax returns.)

And as it turned out, the JCT did find problems in the returns – to the tune of $476,431. That’s real money (about $2.5 million in today’s dollars), and it reflected real errors on Nixon’s returns. (For details on the Nixon investigation, see my paper for the JCT’s 90th anniversary celebration in February.)

But here’s the crucial point: The JCT was not the only government body examining Nixon’s returns after he made them public. The IRS was doing it too. The president’s returns had already been audited once, but the agency began a second audit just before Nixon made his public release.

Ultimately, the IRS reached much the same conclusion as the JCT: Nixon owed almost half a million dollars in unpaid taxes and interest. Eventually, Nixon promised to make good on the deficiency.