IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is able to release his tax returns despite the audit that’s being conducted.
Trump has stated that he cannot publicly release his returns during an audit. In a question submitted by PJM, Koskinen was asked at the National Press Club on Thursday if Trump has to wait for the audit to be completed to release the returns.
“We take seriously our obligation to protect taxpayer information, their private information, whether it’s their name, their activity, whatever they’re doing with us is private and it’s protected by statute,” Koskinen said.
“So I can’t comment on anybody’s comments particularly about their own situation. What I have said is that even when we are dealing with someone, their tax return is their own possession and they can do what they would like with it,” he added.
Koskinen also said U.S. presidents are audited every year.
“So anybody running for president, who is going to be president, can look forward to having their tax returns audited every year,” he said.
Last month, South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, who endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for president, called on Trump to release his returns. In January 2012, Haley recommended former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) not release his returns during the presidential primary.
“I think those are distractions. I saw it in my race. They always say ‘show me your tax return’ just so they can start throwing holes in it. I think that will be his decision to make, but that’s nothing but a political ploy,” said Haley, who endorsed Romney.
Romney released some tax returns in January 2012 and more in September of that year.
During the event at the National Press Club, Koskinen told the audience the U.S. has “the world’s most complicated tax code” and welcomed efforts to simplify the code.
“I’m in favor of tax simplification,” he said when asked if he thinks a flat tax would be a good idea. “If we could simplify the tax code it would be in everybody’s interest.”
Koskinen was asked how the agency is dealing with fraudulent tax returns for tax year 2015.
In 2014, the IRS paid $5.8 billion in taxpayer funds for fraudulent tax returns.
Koskinen said that number has likely gone down but did not specify an amount.