Are Presidential Candidates Legally Required To Release Their Tax Returns?

Candidates Are Not Legally Required to Release Tax Returns

No. There is no legal requirement of any kind that presidential candidates release tax returns from any year. Indeed, there is a strict, strong constitutional right to privacy for all tax returns. Thus, tax returns can be released by an individual taxpayer, but cannot released by the IRS to the public. However, one Senator has proposed legislation requiring presidential candidates to release tax returns.

Despite the lack of legal requirement, for the last thirty years, almost all presidential and vice presidential candidates have released reams of their personal tax returns. Of 34 past presidential and vice presidential candidates, only seven — Brown, Buchanan, Huckabee, Forbes, Giuliani, Lugar, Nader — declined to release personal tax returns. Hillary Clinton has released her tax returns for years 2007 to 2014 showing that the Clintons paid more than $43 million in taxes over that period. For his part, Donald Trump has said that the tax rate he pays is “none of your business” and “I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.”

Are Presidential Candidates Legally Required to Reveal Any Financial Information?

Yes! Presidential candidates are legally required to file a “Personal Financial Disclosure” with the Federal Election Commission. But personal tax returns reveal different and important information, such as taxes paid and tax rate, deductions and credits claimed, charitable donations, debts claimed, offshore assets, and so on.

Trump has filed a legally required 104-page “Personal Financial Disclosure” with the Federal Election Commission. It contains general lists of investments in more than 550 different entities, and income from hundreds of different sources. However, unlike a tax return, this form does not show a person’s annual income and is not sworn to be accurate under penalty of perjury.

If It’s Not Legally Required Why Do Candidates Release Their Tax Returns Anyway?

Because it’s simply expected. Every major presidential candidate in the modern era has done so. Even Richard Nixon released his tax returns while he was being audited. Most voters believe they have a right to know how much a candidate pays in taxes, gives to charities, and claims in credits and deductions.

Are There Legal Reasons Why Donald Trump Hasn’t Released His Tax Returns?

In late March, Donald Trump released a letter from his tax attorneys and accountants attesting to the fact that all of his tax returns from 2009 forward are currently being audited by the IRS.

At a televised debate on February 25, 2016, Trump said, “I will absolutely give my return, but I’m being audited now for two or three [years’ worth] now so I can’t,” he continued. However, there is no legal restriction preventing auditees from releasing tax returns.

Image Source: dailybeast.com

Image Source: dailybeast.com

Billionaire Mark Cuban tweeted a suggestion that the reason Trump hadn’t releasing his tax returns was that Trump might be embarrassed that the Clintons actually “made more” money than him. Others speculate that the tax returns would reveal how little Trump has given to charity, in contrast to his “huge” claim that he donated more than $100 million to charity over the course of the campaign. Many also believe it’s because there are concerning ties between Trump and the Russian government, which his tax returns might reveal. The Washington Post collected all the facts known so far about Trump’s taxes, including that he apparently paid little or no federal taxes in several years. Mark Sanford, the Republican former governor of South Carolina, has urged Trump to release his tax returns.

What do you think? Should the law require that all presidential candidates release their tax returns? Does a candidate’s refusal to release tax returns affect your view of them?

30 comments on “Are Presidential Candidates Legally Required To Release Their Tax Returns?

  1. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Sherrille Humphrey on

      No I do not believe they should give their tax returns for the public to see I think the public is being nosey especially the news media and the Democrats insisting that Trump do that and this idiot in California who wants to not put him on the ballot because of that that’s BS all they want to do is find out crap about Trump so they can bash him and Bash him and Bash him and try to make him look bad like they’ve done since day one of the election so no I think it’s a personal private thing I wouldn’t want to release my tax returns to anyone what the hell business is it of theirs

      Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Patricio on

      I believe in the case of Presidents and Vice presidents, tax forms should be available to congress, at the minimum where a report underling potential conflicts of interest, and any potential financial crimes are given and that report is released to the public under the concept of an “informed public”. If the public release of the tax forms is ruled unconstitutional, this to me would be the compromise to make it constitutional. There is a greater need here than is posed to the individual, in the case of a president.

      The President is unlike everyone else in one respect, he governs everyone–individuals do not. Therefore an exception must be made in the case of presidential candidates. I do not buy the slippery slope argument ( in fact, it’s one of the fallacies listed in the Carl Sagan Baloney Detection Kit ).

      Reply
  2. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    NEWS2VIEW on

    Julian E. Zelizer, who appeared on CNN on Sunday, Jan 22, stated otherwise — which is what prompted me to Google whether indeed it is a legal requirement for now-President Trump to release his tax return. Prof. Zeilzer exclaimed “it’s the law” on the heels of comments made by other CNN panel members about the issue of Trump’s refusal (“broken promise”) to release his tax returns. While the media is busy roasting Trump’s press secretary for lying to the media about Inauguration attendance levels, the major broadcasters consistently allow people to sit on their panels who perpetuate information that is not properly fact checked because it is “off the cuff”. With the amount of punditry passing for “news”, it’s little surprise President Trump is so jaded about mainstream media. When you have Ivy League professors who go unchecked on national TV for spreading misinformation about what is and is not a legal requirement of a sitting president, there’s legitimate room for criticism of that media.

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  3. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  4. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  5. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Saundra Buchanan on

    The reason I say YES to both questions is this…..if a candidate has some kind of financial ties to a country that is our enemy of some sort or had financial dealings with the mafia, etc., I would want to know and that would change my view of them.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Allie on

      All that is covered prior to taking office or a cabinet position.
      PS: you should have made demands on the Clintons and Obama, you know, that one who gave billions of TAXPAYERS’ money to HIS FOREIGN pals.

      Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      JOHN M COVICH on

      EVERYONE —SOMEWHERE IN THEIR FAMILY HAS A CONNECTION TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO COULD BE CONSIDERED A BAD PERSON —MY FATHERS LEGAL GUARDIAN , AFTER HIS PARENTS DIED, WAS SAID TO BE IN THE CAPONE MOB BUT NOTHING WAS PROVEN —I WOULD IMAGINE THE THE CLINTONS AND OBAMAS HAVE MORE TIES TO RUSSIA THAN ANY OTHER POLITICIAN BECAUSE OF THE CLINTONS GETTING MONEY FROM THE RUSSIANS TO SPEAK IN RUSSIA AND OBAMA FOR HIS TALK WITH THEM SAYING THAT HE WOULD HAVE MORE LEEWAY AFTER THE ELECTION –TRUMP IS AN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESSMAN AND IT IS LIKELY THAT HE HAS TALKED TO A PERSON FROM ALL BUSINESS PEOPLE IN THE WORLD

      Reply
  6. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Joe Sinagra on

    Congress should abide by the same rules on tax returns, not just the president . . . as they would have the same ability of some kind of financial ties to a country. Financial Disclosure would show more data than a tax return. There currently is no law that states a president must show their tax returns.

    Once in office, members of Congress enjoy access to connections and information they can use to increase their wealth, in ways that are unparalleled in the private sector. And once politicians leave office, their connections allow them to profit even further. As far as foreign interests . . . over 43 percent of all members of Congress took lobbying jobs after leaving Congress, landing positions with an average annual salary of $2 million.

    Members of Congress are subject to current insider trading laws. However, current insider trading laws do not apply to nonpublic information about current or upcoming congressional . . . because members of Congress aren’t technically obligated to keep that information confidential.

    Congressmen can get away with the type of insider trading that would send Martha Stewart to prison. They go into hearings and confidential meetings with business interests, understanding new legislation is going to come out next week, and are free to trade on that information.

    If you’re going to pass a bill that requires a POTUS to show his returns, Congress should be accountable to that same requirement.

    Reply
  7. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Allie on

      The man doesn’t take a salary. He is the first president who is actually trying to implement the agenda he ran on, and he is AN AMERICAN WHO HAS AMERICA’S BEST INTERESTS AT HEART. Hell, over half of the USA still doesn’t believe Obamacare a citizen, think he’s Muslim, &a Michelle is using some guy’s social security # from 1910 or so! Still want to discuss HONESTY?
      (Haven’t gotten to the Clintons. Lol)

      Reply
  8. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Tiffney Massey on

    Simple fact is that the President of the United States answers to “The People”. If “The People” wishes to see his tax returns to ensure he is telling them the truth; i.e. being honest I think the President should be required to release the returns. With there being suspicious ties of multiple campaign officials to Russia and Turkey and with the money he is spending not only on vacations but on bombing countries too I think that it is only right to see if he has spent himself into debt and just ran for this job to spend more money that is not his. Trump’s tax returns will determine whether he is impeached or not and I think that has a lot to do with why he refuses to release them.

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    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Jennie on

      Impeached? You think that the tax returns that he is not legally bound to provide will end up impeaching him? That’s wishful thinking, Snowflake. You guys just cannot get over that a republican won. And won’t for the next 3.5 years. Will Hillary then be carried into the White House (skirting the law that makes Mike Pence President) by throngs of people who drank the democratic kool aid?

      Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Allie on

      Malarkey. Get your information in order.
      Oh, and my comments to Saundra Buchanan in the “P. S.” Section are also for you.

      Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Dana on

      You are aware that Trump has donated all of his salary since taking office to different government agencies, small business administration, and towards research for alcoholism?I think if he wanted to spend other people’s money that he has been a businessman long enough he would have found an easier, less public way. I also believe that if he had something on those returns that would jeopardize his presidency that the IRS, (you know, that federal agency whose sole purpose is to what…? That’s right, investigate people’s taxes) would have charged him long ago. Good news for the American taxpayers, since the majority (Democrat) of representatives from each state has spent the past 2 years on trying to destroy our President, and spent close to 38(?)million without success, we get 2 more years of the House doing nothing for it’s constituents because they’ll try to impeach and are more concerned about trying to justify blowing time, money, resources on something that can’t be proven while doing absolutely nothing for the American people. Time that could have been spent towards climate change, homelessness, education or finding ways to help our veterans.
      I agree with @news2view, @allie, @isla, @JohnMCovich, @JoeSinagra, @jennie

      Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Dana on

      You are aware that Trump has donated all of his salary since taking office to different government agencies, small business administration, and towards research for alcoholism?I think if he wanted to spend other people’s money that he has been a businessman long enough he would have found an easier, less public way. I also believe that if he had something on those returns that would jeopardize his presidency that the IRS, (you know, that federal agency whose sole purpose is to what…? That’s right, investigate people’s taxes) would have charged him long ago. Good news for the American taxpayers, since the majority (Democrat) of representatives from each state has spent the past 2 years on trying to destroy our President, and spent close to 38(?)million without success, we get 2 more years of the House doing nothing for it’s constituents because they’ll try to impeach and are more concerned about trying to justify blowing time, money, resources on something that can’t be proven while doing absolutely nothing for the American people. Time that could have been spent towards climate change, homelessness, education or finding ways to help our veterans.
      I agree with @news2view, @allie, @isla, @JohnMCovich, @JoeSinagra, @jennie, @scorned

      Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Janet on

      You said “we the people”…. not all the people think he should release his tax returns. So you think if “any” of the people want it he should give them????

      Reply
  9. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Tis Da Boss on

    Absolutely. And if I were running for President you bet your ass I would. It’s the right of the American public that the President be as transparent as possible so we can trust him or her. He’s a coward and clearly has something to hide.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Allie on

      Wrong. Financial Disclosures are required. Trump has submitted that. An individual’s tax information is his own. Period.
      PS: the man isn’t taking a salary, for goodness sake!

      Reply
  10. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
  11. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Scorned on

    Funny how States and Federal representatives are sponsoring bills to require tax return release, but no one has even brought up and pushed for the public release/proof of citizenship as part of the vetting process to hold any Government position that is required to be met, Constitutionally. At state and federal levels.

    Reply
  12. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Pam Dickhaus on

    No and No. Tax returns are considered confidential. Although I have nothing to hide, I wouldn’t want mine to be reviewed, chewed on, critiqued and criticized by John Q. Public either. Primarily because they would find SOMETHING there, even though there is NOTHING there. That’s precisely what they would do to President Trump. The push for his tax returns is nothing but a witch hunt, anything they can do to try and get Trump out of office. If, somehow he is forced to release them, they will find Russian collusion (although it’s already been proven there wasn’t any) or ties to businesses in countries that are or could potentially be our enemies. There probably are ties to businesses, but those probably exist all over the world. The man is a businessman and a businessman conducts business with numerous entities in the daily course of operations. As far as Mafia connections as one lady commented – seriously? Do you really think something like that would be listed on ANYONE’S tax return. “Gave $10,000 to the New York Mob.” I’m sure there is none of that shady history in Trump’s returns anyway so that is a non-factor in asking for them. And who cares how much money he donated to charity? He is already donating his salary as President to different groups; in essence, working with no pay. So, my answer is not only no and no but and ADAMANT no and no. It’s nobody’s business.

    Reply

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