Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, this week reintroduced a bill to require current presidents and future presidential nominees to release their tax returns to the public in an effort to increase transparency.
In the two years since Bennet first cosponsored this legislation, revelations about President Trump’s financial ties and his associates’ ties to Russia have surfaced, and it has been reported that Trump and his family spent decades committing tax fraud. President Trump has refused to follow the lead of presidential candidates from major political parties who have voluntarily released their tax returns, upsetting a bipartisan, pro-transparency tradition that has stood for 40 years since Watergate.
“At the foundation of our democracy is the ability of the American people to hold its government accountable,” Bennet said. “The public has a right to know about the financial connections and dealings that could influence President Trump’s domestic and foreign policy decisions.”
Section 6103 of the U.S. tax code grants the Chairman of the House Finance Committee and the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee authority to obtain the president’s tax returns from the Treasury Department. According to reports, House Democrats plan to use this authority to demand President Trump’s tax returns, but Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has not said whether he would comply.
In addition to this effort, the Presidential Tax Transparency Act would require all sitting presidents to release their most recent three years of tax returns to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). It also would require that, within 15 days of becoming the nominee at the party convention, presidential nominees must release their most recent three years of tax returns to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Should the sitting president or future candidates refuse to comply, the Treasury Secretary would be required to provide the tax returns directly to the OGE or FEC respectively for public release.
A one-page summary of the legislative proposal is available here. The bill text is available here.