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Tell Congress: Force presidential candidates to release tax returns

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Petition to the United States Congress:

“Force all presidential candidates to release their tax returns by passing the Presidential Tax Transparency Act.”

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    Tell Congress: Force presidential candidates to release tax returns

    For 40 years, we have never needed a law to tell presidential candidates to do the right thing by releasing their tax returns.1 But, we have never seen a candidate embrace willful disregard for the truth quite like Donald Trump.

    Just days away from election day, we do not know the extent of Donald Trump’s tax dodging. We have no sense of his foreign entanglements. We do not know whether he owes large sums of money to Russian or other interests. All we know is from a scant few pages released by The New York Times, which show that Trump suffered such a big loss in 1995 that tax law would have allowed him to pay no federal income taxes for the following 18 years.2

    Trump’s unprecedented attempt to hide his shady financial dealings has exposed a massive flaw in our election law. We cannot count on candidates like Trump to be honest or the corporate media that has enabled him to force candidates to do the right thing. That’s why we need to get behind a bill in Congress that would make it mandatory for presidential candidates to release tax returns.

    Tell Congress: Force presidential candidates to release tax returns.

    Even Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan believes Trump should release his tax returns, but we need to force him to put his money where his mouth is. Sen. Ron Wyden’s bill would require candidates to release their last three years of tax returns within 15 days of being nominated, or the Federal Election Commission would do it for them.3 Republicans who oppose this bill are simply putting partisan loyalties ahead of allowing Americans to make informed decisions.

    Donald Trump is a textbook example of why releasing tax returns is so important:

    • Foreign entanglements. Trump’s debt load has increased from $350 to $630 million in just the last year, at a time when American banks are reluctant to extend Trump credit.4 In 2008, Trump’s son is claimed to have said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”5 Without a look at his tax returns, the American public cannot know whether Trump’s current debt, or his previous business partnerships, obligate him financially to Russian oligarchs aligned with Vladimir Putin.
    • Tax dodging. The American people who pay their taxes deserve to know if presidential candidates do the same. Trump has said he is “smart” not to pay taxes – and the campaign has not denied The New York Times reports that he dodged taxes.6
    • Fitness for the presidency. Donald Trump has made his business experience the central argument for his candidacy, making the release of his tax returns are even more crucial. Trump's few financial disclosures have already revealed the tremendous profits he has earned from companies whose policies he attacks.7 Trump’s tax returns are sure to reveal even more.

    By demanding that Congress act, we can keep the spotlight on Trump’s outrageous stonewalling, force Republicans to pick between loyalty to party and country, and lay down a principle for all candidates in future elections.

    Tell Congress: Force presidential candidates to release tax returns.

    So far, Trump has been hiding behind a phony excuse that he can’t release his tax returns until the IRS finishes auditing him. But that claim has been repudiated by the IRS itself, and nothing is preventing Trump from releasing multiple years of returns.8 Americans need to get the truth about Trump’s business dealings, his claims of extreme wealth, how he truly makes his money, what tax loopholes he is using to dodge taxes, the tax rate he actually pays, and how his tax plan would benefit him personally.

    Releasing tax returns is a crucial way for a presidential candidate to assure the public that he or she has no conflicts of interest. We can no longer count on candidates or the corporate media. It is time to change the law to make tax transparency mandatory.

    Tell Congress: Force presidential candidates to release tax returns.

    Thank you for speaking out.

    1. Amber Phillips, “Want your presidential candidates to release their taxes? There’s a bill for that.,” The Washington Post, Oct. 3, 2016.
    2. Ibid.
    3. Ibid.
    4. Josh Marshall, “Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing,” Talking Points Memo, July 23, 2016.
    5. Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Michael Birnbaum, “Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” The Washington Post, June 17, 2016.
    6. Chris Kahn, “Trump calls tax avoidance 'smart,' most Americans call it 'unpatriotic': poll,” Reuters, Oct. 4, 2016.
    7. Christina Wilkie, "Donald Trump Profits In Private From The Companies He Trashes In Public," Huffington Post, May 18, 2016.
    8. Kevin McCoy and David Jackson, "IRS: Trump can release tax returns, regardless of audit," USA Today, Feb. 26, 2016.