During his first face off with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on the debate stage, GOP nominee Donald Trump heavily indicated that he does not pay federal income tax — and he’s proud of it.
On Sept. 26, during the presidential debate hosted by NBC's Lester Holt, Clinton blasted the business mogul for refusing to release his tax returns, bucking decades of campaign precedent. Trump stated that he would release his returns after his routine IRS audit was completed.
Clinton fired back that the IRS had already announced that Trump is fully allowed to disclose his tax returns for the public record, which is true. The agency had made this clear as early as February 2015, when Trump was still battling for the GOP nomination.
“Nothing prevents individuals from sharing their own tax information,” the IRS said in a statement, according to The Hill.
Clinton continued her line of attack, accusing Trump of withholding his tax returns because he does not want the public to discover how much he pays in taxes.
“The only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax,” Clinton said, according to CNBC.
“That’s makes me smart,” Trump responded.
Later during the debate, Clinton chided Trump again for not paying his fair share to help the U.S. economy.
“It would be squandered, too, believe me,” Trump fired back.
Clinton has released all of of her tax returns filed since 2007, with previous records already made public in previous campaigns. Her 2015 returns, filed with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, revealed that the couple paid a 35 percent tax rate, according to the New York Times.
Trump has filled out a financial disclosure that is mandatory for presidential nominees, but those documents do not shed any light on his tax rate.
“No, I didn’t say that at all," Trump said after the debate on "Spin Room." "I will say this: I hate the way our government spends our taxes,”
“Of course I pay federal taxes," he added later.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was in the audience at Hofstra University. After the debate, the billionaire dismissed Trump’s assertion that it is smart to avoid paying federal income tax.
“There’s nobody who’s been as blessed as me and my family, so far, knock on wood, is healthy, and at some point you have to realize you have to give back,” Cuban told USA TODAY. “And you have to realize that this is a country’s that’s been great to us. And you can’t just take, take, take, take, take, take.”
On Sept. 27, Trump’s running mate, Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, clarified that Trump’s comments during the debate did not mean he doesn’t pay federal income tax.
“Oh no, gosh, no,” Pence told CBS News. “He said afterward that he’s paid federal taxes … like any good businessman, he works to pay as little taxes as he can.”