This article was originally published on February 13, 2016
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, offered this year's hopefuls advice about a hard-learned lesson: Release your tax returns before the primaries and avoid tough scrutiny later. But the top three Republicans leading in national polls don't appear to be listening.
Even as other candidates - most notably Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush - have already disclosed years' worth of private tax returns to dispel questions about their personal finances, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have failed to do the same despite promises to do so, sometimes after events that have now come and gone. None of the campaigns will say why they've delayed or when the candidates will release their returns.
The best explanation: It's postponing an unpleasant moment, said Joseph Thorndike, a contributing editor for Tax Notes who maintains the organization's tax history project.
"If you say you're going to do it, you've got to do it," Thorndike said. "I don't like the disingenuousness of 'we're working on it.'" He said the candidates' tax returns for 2014 were long ago filed with the government.
The three Republican candidates have unequivocally said they will disclose their returns. Trump, who broke a promise in 2012 to disclose his returns if Obama produced his long-form birth certificate, said in January that he was preparing to release his "big returns." The Cruz campaign told the Dallas Morning News in April that Cruz would release his returns soon after they were filed, but he still hasn't. Shortly before Rubio filed his 2014 taxes last year, he told the Tampa Tribune that he would make them public.