Bill: HR 305 and S 26 – Presidential Tax Transparency Act
Sponsors: Rep. Anna Eshoo (D – CA); Sen. Ron Wyden (D – OR)
Cosponsors: 87 House; 20 Senate
Federal – House and Senate
Where is it now? House: Ways and Means; Oversight and Government Reform; Senate: Rules and Administration
Summary: This bill amends the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 to require the President and certain candidates for President to disclose federal income tax returns for the three most recent taxable years in reports filed with either the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) or the Federal Election Commission (FEC), in the case of a candidate.
The OGE or the FEC must make the disclosed tax returns publicly available after making appropriate redactions. If the income tax returns are not disclosed as required by this bill, the OGE or the FEC must request the returns from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to require the IRS, upon receiving a written request from the FEC or the OGE, to provide any income tax return that is required to be disclosed under this bill.
The bill also establishes civil and criminal penalties for failing to file or falsifying income tax returns that are required to be disclosed pursuant to this bill.
Stakeholders: All Americans
Why do we care? Breaking with 40 years of presidential tradition, President Trump refuses to release his federal tax returns, giving the bogus excuse that his returns are being audited by the IRS and can’t be released, a claimed dismissed by most tax experts. At the same time, three-quarters of Americans believe that Trump should release his tax returns.
Release of Trump’s taxes would show the American people the extent of his global financial entanglements with foreign countries, particularly Russia. In fact, Trump has had extensive business dealings with Russia for 30 years, and Russian oligarchs have invested nearly $100 million in Trump properties.
Trump made a big show in January about how he will no longer be involved in the running of his businesses, delegating that job to his children. Yet, Trump will continue to profit from his businesses while in office. The Office of Government Ethics in his own White House dismissed Trump’s plan to limit his conflicts of interest as “meaningless.”
The president’s taxes are an issue of national security. We need to know the extent of his financial interests in foreign countries, who he is in debt to, and if his wealth is actually the self-reported $10 billion.
Trump’s tax returns could expose the extent of his global business entanglements, including potential conflicts of interest that violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause. In particular, Trump’s returns could tell us quite a bit about his ties to Russian entities and banks. Although Trump has claimed he has no business or loans in Russia, his son said in 2008 that “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” (LA Times, 3/7/2017)
Finally, the returns might reveal that Trump, who has long claimed to be a generous philanthropist, gives little or no money to charity.
According to Nancy Pelosi: “It is not a right to privacy that the president has. There’s a question of Russian connections –politically, financially, and personally.” It is not the law for the president to release tax returns but it is a long term tradition. President T is the first non-compliant president since Gerald Ford who released only a summary of his taxes. (cbsnew.com 4/5/2017)
In January 2017, Kellyanne Conway said that Mr. Trump is “not going to release his tax returns” and that “Most Americans are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while Trump is in office, not what his look like.”
A poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News in January found that 74% of Americans believe that Trump should release his income tax records. (cbsnews.com 4/5/2017)
How does it meet our stated objective? In order to resist the Trump agenda, we must reject 45’s excuse that his taxes are “under audit” and demand financial transparency through the release of his tax returns from at least the last 3 years.
The bill contains a “Special Rule for Sitting Presidents” – “Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this section, the President shall submit to the Director of the Office of Government Ethics a copy of income tax returns described in paragraph 1-A” 1-A = “…3 most recent years for which a return has been filed with IRS…”
- Attend Tax Rally on April 15 in Washington D.C. or Cambridge. More information: taxmarch.org
- Call our MOCs to thank them for cosponsoring the bill: Elizabeth Warren, Edward Markey, and William Keating.
- Call or text the following members of Congress and demand that they act: House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady, 202-225-4901; House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz, 202-225-5074; Senate Rules and Administration Committee Chair Richard Shelby, 202-224-5744.
State Pressure (politico.com 3/30/2017)
“In at least 24 states, legislators have introduced bills that would force Trump (and all other presidential candidates) to disclose their tax returns in order to qualify for their states’ ballots in 2020.”
“There’s one big obstacle: Requiring presidential candidates to release their taxes as a condition of ballot access may not be constitutional. And even if it is, the Democrats sponsoring such legislation run the risk of major retaliatory measures being taken in Republican state.”
MA Bill S365: “An Act Restoring Financial Transparency in Presidential Elections”
Presented by Michael Barrett (Third Middlesex) and referred to Joint Committee on Election Laws – 1/23/2017
Concurred by the House 1/23/2017
Local Petitioner: Julian Cyr – 617-722-1570 (senate office)