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The 5 Worst Things Donald Trump Could Actually Be Hiding in His Tax Returns

 Donald Trump has no plans to release his tax returns any time soon. What could be hiding in there? Here are five possibilities.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said that David Cay Johnston is a reporter for The Daily Beast. He is not a reporter for The Daily Beast; he is a columnist. We regret the error. 
Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to release his tax returns this election cycle, despite pushes from both sides of the aisle. He claims an audit by the IRS is preventing him from keeping with a protocol followed by major presidential nominees since the 1970s. But that's not really true: No law prevents Trump from releasing his returns during an audit, and the IRS has already completed audits of his returns from 2002 through 2008.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in an email the only reason Trump is not releasing his returns is he is undergoing a "routine audit" and that he plans to release them with the audit is complete. She did respond to a follow up question on the already-audited returns from 2002 to 2008.
Mitt Romney has warned of a "bombshell" hiding in the documents, and Hillary Clinton has upped the pressure by releasing her 2015 returns and those of her running mate, Tim Kaine. Trump's newly appointed campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, has previously urged Trump to release his returns but over the weekend backtracked on her stance. Roger Stone, a former adviser to the Trump campaign who remains one of the candidate's most vocal supporters, said in a radio interview Monday reported by BuzzFeed that he thinks Trump should "release his tax returns immediately."
Gulp: Tough spot for new Trump spox Conway on tax returns @ToddDraculahttps://t.co/XxOypp7gdp
- TheStreet Politics (@TSTpolitics) August 22, 2016
Trump's reluctance has spurred speculation as to what it is the self-described billionaire could be hiding. 
Commentator George Will floated the idea that they might show ties to Russian oligarchs, and others have suggested they might divulge ties to the mob. However, it's unlikely Trump would be detailing illicit ties to Russia or the mafia to the federal government.
Here are five things that could actually be in Trump's taxes:
1. He doesn't pay any taxes at all. 
"I think the biggest likelihood is that the returns show him with relatively little income, and paying little in tax. This might be a result of him losing money in some years, and taking advantage of tax breaks on real estate investment," said Joe Bankman, professor of tax law at Stanford University. "He couldn't argue that he is a lot richer than he appears on the tax return without calling attention to the fact he pays tax at a lower rate than, say, a high school principal."
New York Times column recently outlined such a scenario, pointing out that Trump could take advantage of tax breaks available to (and commonly used by) real estate developers to reduce his reported income to near-zero, or even report a loss. Real estate LLCs can generate enormous losses because of depreciation, interest payments, real estate taxes and operating costs that they can use to offset taxable income.
There is evidence he has done so in the past. A financial disclosure made in 1981 to New Jersey gambling regulators revealed Trump had in 1978 and 1979 claimed negative income, allowing him to pay no taxes. There are also indications he did not pay taxes in 1984.
"He might be worth gazillions of dollars, and he might have gazillions of dollars in income. But usually in the real estate ventures...those losses might be deductible then against his other income, indeed resulting in a lower taxable income than one might think someone in his position would have, and low taxes," said Don Williamson, professor of taxation at American University. 
2. His taxes would reveal lies and hypocrisy. 
His taxes could reveal that he is running some personal expenses through his companies instead of his personal bank account. Or, they could tell a different story than the one he tells the bankers, lenders or casino operates with whom he works. A financial analyst for one of Trump's companies working on a $200 million project currently underway in Washington, D.C. admitted in a deposition reported by BuzzFeed News that the firm prepared financial estimates for its lenders and investors that were "rosier" than those kept internally.
A recent Vanity Fair article speculated that Trump may have transferred the foreign rights to his brand to a company headquartered in an offshore tax haven, copying a move commonly used by tech giants like Apple (AAPL) and Alphabet (GOOGL)  to lower tax burden. That kind of revelation could undercut Trump's "America First" campaign message.
Apple and Alphabet are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. See how Cramer rates the stock here. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells AAPL or GOOGL? Learn more now.

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