Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has introduced legislation that would require presidential nominees such as Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to release their tax returns.
Wyden’s bill, the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, would require candidates to release their most recent three years of tax returns to the Federal Election Commission within 15 days of becoming the nominee at the party convention. Should the candidate refuse to comply, the Treasury Secretary would provide the tax returns directly to the FEC for public release. The bill also provides for redaction of certain information, as the FEC deems appropriate.
"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 Wednesday.
Trump has so far refused to release his tax returns until the Internal Revenue Service finishes auditing them. He has claimed that the IRS has been auditing his tax returns every year since 2002, but has declined to release even the tax returns that the IRS has finished auditing, claiming they are “linked.”
“In interview I told @AP that my taxes are under routine audit and I would release my tax returns when audit is complete, not after election!” he tweeted earlier this month after reports emerged that he might not release his tax returns before the election (see Trump Doesn’t Expect to Release Tax Returns by November).
The IRS has said that he is not prohibited from releasing any tax returns that are being audited, and President Richard Nixon released tax returns that were under audit in 1973.
Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, has been pressing Trump to release his tax returns, pointing out that she and her husband Bill Clinton have released their tax returns ever since 1977. She noted that the last time Trump was required to disclose his tax returns to New Jersey gambling regulators in 1981, they revealed that for two years in the 1970s he paid no federal income taxes because of real estate deductions.
“Not a penny,” she said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “It may be that he hasn’t ever paid federal income tax. That’s why we want to see his tax returns.”
Trump has said that he fights to pay the lowest tax rate possible, and his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, reiterated that point to CBS News, saying, “He is going to pay the smallest amount of taxes possible, which I think the American people also understand. Every deduction possible. He fights for every single dollar. That’s the mindset you want to bring to the government.”
Wyden pointed out that for nearly 40 years presidential candidates from major political parties have voluntarily released their tax returns during the campaign. “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.”
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