Senate Bill Would Require Presidential Candidates to Release Tax Returns

Thursday, May 26, 2016
Sen. Ron Wyden (photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images)


By David M. Herszenhorn, New York Times


WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced legislation Wednesday that would require major presidential candidates to publicly disclose their three most recent personal income tax returns, a challenge to the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, who has resisted releasing his filings.


Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, is trying to goad Republicans — including the committee chairman, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, and the majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — into defending Trump, while giving Democrats a legislative rallying point.


But McConnell and Hatch, as leaders of the majority, are likely to ignore the bill.


Wyden’s measure, called the Presidential Tax Transparency Act (pdf), would apply to Democratic and Republican candidates. Both of the Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have disclosed their tax returns.


“Since the days of Watergate, the American people have had an expectation that nominees to be the leader of the free world not hide their finances and personal tax returns,” Wyden said in a statement.


“Tax returns deliver honest answers to key questions from the American public,” he said. “Do you even pay taxes? Do you give to charity? Are you abusing tax loopholes at the expense of middle-class families? Are you keeping your money offshore? People have a right to know.”


Under Wyden’s bill, if a nominee refused to comply, the Federal Election Commission would be authorized to obtain the tax returns from the Treasury Department and release them.


A spokeswoman for Wyden, Lindsey Held, said that the bill would be introduced as a stand-alone measure, but it would also be put forward as an amendment to the annual military policy bill to increase its chances of getting a vote.


Trump has given different reasons for not releasing his returns, including that he is being subjected to “continuous” audit by the IRS, but he has also bluntly stated that his tax rate is “none of your business.”


In announcing the proposed legislation, Wyden noted that over the past 40 years every president has released tax returns during the campaign, but that federal financial disclosure rules have not required doing so.


He also pointed out that all nominees for federal posts subject to Senate confirmation are required by the Finance Committee to submit tax return information.


To Learn More:

            Presidential Tax Transparency Act (U.S. Senate) (pdf)


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