SEATTLE — In response to President Trump’s reluctance to release his tax returns, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has introduced the Presidential Tax Transparency Act to Congress. This bill would amend the FEC act of 1971 to require any candidate of a major party who is running for the presidency to file a copy of their tax returns with the FEC. The most recent three years of returns would be required under this law.
When asked why a form of this law has not been passed before to mandate the release of tax returns, Senator Wyden responded: “This was just a given. This was something that was automatic. There wasn’t much question that this was sort of the price of getting to be treated as a serious candidate.”
Individuals outside of government have also been interested in this topic. A group called the Tax History Project has done research from FDR to current day presidents and candidates to establish an archive of information that adds clarity to this issue. According to its research, a historical precedent does exist. Every candidate going back to Gerald Ford has released multiple years of tax returns. Even Ford introduced at least summaries of his returns.
Because of this precedent, a majority of the candidates competing in the Republican and Democratic primaries released their returns. According to group’s research, the answer to the question “are presidents required to release their tax returns?” would be no. Even though it is not required, this does not necessarily mean the historical precedent to release them is absent.
It is this historical precedent that Senator Wyden wishes to become federal law. Currently, there are no Republican supporters for this bill. Senator Wyden states “there have been a number of Republicans who have repeatedly said they want to see a tax return. When the President said nobody cares about this except journalists, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) spoke out and said, ‘I do.'”
The bill faces an uphill battle in Congress. The largest challenge would be to obtain President Trump’s signature in order to become a law. Senator Wyden believes that, through a grassroots movement, the President could be forced to provide support for the bill.
In addition to the grassroots movement, there is a popular petition floating around calling for President Trump to release his tax returns. The petition already has 250,000 signatures. This number warrants a response by the White House. However, President Trump remains steadfast in his position to not release his tax returns.
Senator Wyden believes that, even though President Trump is a business person and not a politician, he should still subject himself to the same level of scrutiny as any other candidate. Are presidents required to release their tax returns? Senator Wyden believes they should, as he says: “this is about accountability to the American people. This is so straightforward. This is something that is the lowest ethical bar. It is baseline financial information.”
– Brian Faust