Bernie Sanders Releases Tax Returns, Will Donald Trump Follow His Example?

Less than 24 hours after a direct challenge by his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders released his 2014 tax return on Friday, providing details on his and wife Jane Sanders’ household income as well as other financial information. Sanders was publicly pressured to make the disclosure during his debate with Clinton on Thursday evening.

The documents released by Bernie Sanders indicate that the Sanders household paid $27,653 in federal income taxes in 2014, as well as $7,903 in taxes to their home state of Vermont. USA Today noted that the total income of Bernie and Jane Sanders was “largely derived” from Sander’s U.S. Senate salary of $174,000.

Hillary Clinton raised the issue of Sanders’ tax returns in the midst of a tense exchange with CNN reporter Dana Bash during the Democratic debate after Bash asked Clinton why she has repeatedly refused to release transcripts of speeches she made to large Wall Street corporations. Despite a wave of boos from the crowd, Clinton changed the topic to Sanders’ personal finances, despite the fact that he had already released summaries of some of his documents last summer. She added that she has released 30 years of her own tax returns, including eight years that are archived on her website.

hillary clinton bernie sanders Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was booed during the Democratic debate on Thursday night after she refused to release transcripts of her speeches to big banks. [Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]As for Sanders, he cautioned the audience that people should not get too excited about delving into his finances, adding another thinly veiled reference to Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street.

“They are very boring tax returns,” he said. “No big money from speeches, no major investments. Unfortunately – unfortunately, I remain one of the poorer members of the United States Senate.”

Indeed, Hillary Clinton is said to have received $675,000 for just three speeches to the investment firm Goldman Sachs, dwarfing the Sanders’ annual household income by a substantial margin. As noted by The Daily Caller, CNN’s Anderson Cooper previously asked Clinton if the aforementioned figure seemed exorbitant in hindsight, to which she succinctly replied, “That’s what they offered.”

While Bernie Sanders appears to stemmed any controversy regarding his tax returns, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has repeatedly declined to release his tax documents despite repeated challenges from his opponents on the matter.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has indicated he will only release his tax returns after he is no longer under audit by the IRS. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

But Trump’s continued stonewalling is not swaying his critics, who insist he should be as transparent as possible now that he is involved in the political process. In an article published by National Review earlier this month, writer John Fund declared that Donald Trump’s own party should reject him outright if he has not released his tax returns by the Republican National Convention this summer. Fund further suggests that information contained in the documents might well tank the Republican party’s hope for a victory in November, should Trump emerge from the convention as the Republican nominee.

“A political party that didn’t demand the public release of Donald Trump’s tax returns could be committing electoral suicide,” said Fund. “In his 40-year business career, he has assembled an empire of great complexity along with a serial record of credibility problems. In other words, he often ‘makes stuff up.’ This is a man who said, under oath, in a 2008 libel suit he later lost: ‘My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with the markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings.'”

Trump cites the fact that he is currently under audit from the IRS as the reason for his hesitation. The real estate mogul recently addressed calls to release his tax returns in an interview with Syracuse.com, suggesting that disclosing the documents now would put him in a compromising position.

“I actually look forward to giving the tax returns, but as soon as the audit is complete,” Trump said in the interview. “And everybody understands that. You know, when you’re doing even a routine audit, you just don’t release your tax returns. You release them when they’re completed.”

Thus, while the personal financial records of virtually every other major contender including Bernie Sanders are now a matter of public record, Donald Trump remains in the all-too-familiar position of defying conventional expectations and remaining a strong and almost unflappable contender in this unprecedented and tumultuous election cycle.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]