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Trump: 'Nothing to learn' from tax returns

When voters head to the polls in November, it's not likely they'll know exactly how much money Donald Trump makes or what he pays in taxes.
Donald Trump smiles while speaking during a news conference at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., March 15, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)
Donald Trump smiles while speaking during a news conference at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., March 15, 2016. 

Donald Trump still won't reveal how much money he makes, or how much he pays in taxes.

The presumptive nominee told the Associated Press Tuesday that despite the pressure to release his tax returns as decades of past presidential candidates have done, he likely won't be releasing them before November due to an audit of his returns since 2009. Trump said he will release them after the audit is complete.

"There's nothing to learn from them," Trump said in an interview published on Wednesday, adding that he didn’t think they would interest voters. Sources close to Trump and his campaign echoed this line of thinking, noting that while the returns could come out before the election, "don't expect them anytime soon."

"The voters don't give a damn," a high level campaign aide told NBC News.

But voters have historically been quite interested in tax returns — keenly enough so that only seven presidential and vice presidential candidates have avoided releasing their returns in the last 40 years. Trump is also proposing a massive tax overhaul, and regularly says he'd be OK paying more in taxes, a statement that's hard to evaluate without knowing his current tax rate. His wealth has also been widely questioned. Forbes estimates his net worth is $4.5 billion, less than half the $10 billion Trump says it is.

RELATED: Trump prepared to keep tax returns hidden from public

Critics have pressured Trump to release his tax returns, particularly 2012 nominee Gov. Mitt Romney, whose tax returns and 14 percent effective tax rate were widely disseminated in the media.

“The reason that I think that there’s a bombshell in there is because every time he’s asked about his taxes he dodges and delays and says, 'Well, we’re working on it,'” Romney told Fox News in February. “Hey, we’re not talking about the taxes that are coming due this year. Of course they’re working on those. They won’t be ready for months. We’re talking about taxes already filed — back taxes.”

Romney waded into the debate over Trump's taxes again on Wednesday, calling Trump's refusal to release his returns "disqualifying" in a statement on Facebook. 

"Tax returns provide the public with its sole confirmation of the veracity of a candidate's representations regarding charities, priorities, wealth, tax conformance, and conflicts of interest," Romney wrote.

Trump has consistently insisted that releasing any tax returns — even those that aren't being audited —would be bad for business. The campaign also justified withholding the returns due to their complexity, telling NBC News that they are "very complicated." When reminded that Romney's tax returns were also complicated, and that didn't prevent the former Republican nominee from releasing them, the Trump campaign source countered, "Look how well that worked out for him."

Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service has said that nothing, including an audit, prevents an individual from releasing his or her returns.

“We stress that we’re in tax administration, so we have no stake in any of the primaries going on,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in February in response to Trump's insinuation that he could not reveal the information while under audit. “From our standpoint, if you’re being audited, and you want to do something else, share that information with your returns, you can do that.”

Until Tuesday, Trump had signaled that he wanted to release his tax returns and hoped to do so soon. 

"I actually look forward to giving the tax returns, but as soon as the audit is complete," he said in Syracuse before the New York primary. "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."

On Sunday, NBC's Chuck Todd asked Trump to pledge to release them before the election. 

"Sure. If the auditors finish. I'll do it as fast as the auditors finish," he said, boasting of his wealth. "You don't learn much from tax returns. But I would love to give the tax returns. But I can't do it until I'm finished with the audit."

In addition to his own estimate of his wealth released the day he announced his presidential bid, Trump also released a personal financial disclosure with the Federal Election Commission that showed $362 million in income in 2014. However, it's unclear how much of that was actually net income, because many of his businesses reported gross income — their total revenue — rather than the actual profit they made.

Katy Tur contributed to this report.