Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, introduced a bill in Congress on Thursday that would require presidents and presidential candidates to publicly release their tax returns.
The Presidential Tax Transparency Act would require sitting presidents and nominees for the office of major parties to disclose three prior years of federal tax returns annually. Presidential nominees would have to show their returns within 15 days of their party nomination.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park. (2011 photo by Veronica Weber.)
The bill comes after the refusal of president-elect Donald Trump to release his tax returns prior to the election. Trump has periodically said he would make his returns available after an IRS audit is completed, but there is no law prohibiting the release of the returns while an audit is ongoing, IRS officials have said.
Trump also told ABC's Good Morning America interviewer George Stephanopolis that his tax returns are "none of your business."
Eshoo introduced similar legislation in June 2016 with the last Congress, with 39 bipartisan cosponsors.
The bill is a companion to legislation authored by Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon senator and ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. He introduced a presidential tax-return-disclosure bill in May 2016 that amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. The Senate read the bill twice and referred it to the Committee on Rules and Administration.
Wyden announced in November a plan to reintroduce the legislation in 2017.
Every president since 1976 has released tax returns prior to taking office, but the practice is not required by law, according to the Tax History Project, Eshoo's office noted in a Jan. 5 statement.
"The American people justifiably expect those who seek or hold the highest office in the land to be open and transparent about their tax returns. Tax returns contain vital information, such as: were any taxes paid; were any charitable contributions made; were tax loopholes taken advantage of; and are any assets kept offshore," Eshoo said in the statement.
"For decades, presidents and candidates have disclosed their tax returns but this bipartisan practice has never been required by law. The Presidential Tax Transparency Act writes this important disclosure tradition into law. As former presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated last year, 'Tax returns provide the public with its sole confirmation of the veracity of a candidate's representations regarding charities, priorities, wealth, tax conformance, and conflicts of interest.'"
Under the act, the returns must be filed with the Office of Government Ethics or Federal Election Commission. If a president or candidate fails to disclose his/her tax returns, the Secretary of the Treasury would be required to provide redacted copies for public review.
The text of the Presidential Tax Transparency Act can be found here.