June 1, 2016

Question Of The Week: Should Congressional Candidates Be Required To Release Tax Returns?

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, recently introduced legislation that would require major presidential candidates to release their three most recent personal income tax returns. Mr. Wyden’s proposed bill is perhaps nothing more than a partisan response to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s resistance to release his tax documents. Nonetheless, there is considerable precedent for presidential candidates to voluntarily release their returns, albeit sometimes only after political pressure has been exerted. And information gleaned from such financial disclosures has often played a sizeable role in shaping various narratives for candidates.

It would seem that the same arguments in favor of financial transparency at the presidential level could also be applied to congressional candidates. However, a study found that only 17 out of the 535 members of Congress released their tax forms in 2012. One might counter that holding office in Congress does not require the same degree of financial transparency as the presidency, or that requiring such a measure will deter otherwise qualified candidates from running for office. And there is also the question of where it stops—should governors release tax returns? Mayors? City councilmembers? Running for office requires that one submit oneself to public scrutiny, but perhaps tax returns are a bridge too far for those lower down on the ticket.

What do you think: should congressional candidates be required to release tax returns?

Should congressional candidates be required to release tax returns?

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