April 25,2023

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Ryan Carey

Wyden Reintroduces Legislation Requiring Presidents and Presidential Nominees to Publicly Release Tax Returns

Wyden first introduced presidential tax transparency legislation in 2016; following revelation that presidential audit program faltered under Trump, updated bill would require audits for sitting presidents

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today introduced the Presidential Audit and Tax Transparency Act, legislation that would require sitting presidents and the presidential nominees of major parties to release their tax returns to the public. 

The bill would also mandate an annual audit of the sitting president’s tax returns, the results of which would be released publicly. Performing those audits had been IRS policy since 1977, but a House Ways and Means Committee investigation found that the audits did not occur for two years after Donald Trump took office and only resumed when prompted by Congress.

“This bill is based on the inarguable proposition that tax cheats shouldn’t get to be President of the United States,” Wyden said. “The pro-transparency, good-government tradition of candidates releasing tax returns stood for decades until Donald Trump broke it in 2016 to hide his shady business practices. The investigation of Trump’s tax returns also showed that the IRS’s practice of auditing the sitting president’s returns, a practice that has never been required by law, skipped Trump’s first two years in office. It’s clear this system needs fixing, and that means laying out in black-letter law requirements for candidates and sitting presidents to release their returns, as well as an audit that proves to the American people that the president’s tax returns are on the level.” 

Chairman Wyden introduced the first version of this legislation in 2016 when then-candidate Trump refused to release his tax returns, violating the good-government, pro-transparency tradition that candidates of both parties had respected since the Watergate era. For introduction in this Congress, Chairman Wyden updated the legislation based on the findings of the Ways and Means Committee’s 2022 investigation into Donald Trump’s taxes, which found that the IRS had initiated only one presidential audit during Trump’s four year term. 

In addition to disclosure by sitting presidents, the legislation would require that major party nominees include their most recent three years of tax returns in their publicly-available financial disclosure filings with the Federal Election Commission. Should a nominee fail to disclose their tax returns within 15 days after nomination, the FEC would obtain the tax returns from the Treasury Secretary and make them public.

Senator Wyden’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Peter Welch, D-Vt. 

A summary of the Presidential Audit and Tax Transparency Act is here.

The text of the bill is here