March 7, 2017

ATF Letter Supporting Presidential Tax Transparency Act of 2017

March 7, 2017

Dear Senator:

On behalf of ATF’s 425 endorsing organizations, I write to request that you cosponsor S. 26, The Presidential Tax Transparency Act, a bill introduced by Senator Ron Wyden to require the president and presidential nominees of major political parties to publicly release their three most recent federal income tax returns.

During the campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump repeatedly said that he would release his tax returns, telling NBC’s Today show in February 2016 that he would do so “probably over the next few months.” Over the course of the campaign, Mr. Trump shifted to saying that his tax returns would be released once they were no longer under IRS audit. However, since then the president has abruptly changed course and said that he is never going to release his tax returns because the American people don’t “care at all.”

Contrary to that assertion, a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in mid-January found that 74% of Americans thought Trump should release his tax returns, including 49% of his own supporters. And since January 20, more than 1 million people have signed a petition on the White House website calling on President Trump to immediately release his tax returns. Americans want transparency, not broken promises.

The Presidential Tax Transparency Act simply codifies the practice that has been in place for the last 40 years—that every major presidential candidate and sitting president has released their tax returns. In fact, every sitting president since Jimmy Carter (and President Nixon too) has released their tax returns while in office. This is not an issue of partisanship, but instead one of precedent and transparency.

President Trump and his senior advisors have repeatedly pointed to the fact that the president has filed the financial disclosures required by law. Candidate Trump even claimed that “I released the most extensive financial review of anybody in the history of politics…You don’t learn much in a tax return.” However, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact labeled this claim “false,” pointing to the fact that financial disclosures are limited by large gaps in the information provided, and that they only list assets in broad ranges, as opposed to the much more detailed information tax returns provide—including earnings down to the dollar.

The public deserves to know how presidential candidates and presidents conduct their financial affairs, whether they will have conflicts of interest while in office, what tax loopholes they are taking advantage of, and how their proposed tax policies—and those proposed by Congress— will benefit them personally.

The Presidential Tax Transparency Act is needed since 40 years of accepted practice apparently isn’t enough to compel President Trump to act. With no legislation requiring them to do so, and President Trump having inaugurated a new tradition of nondisclosure, why would future presidential candidates and presidents release their tax returns?

Therefore, please cosponsor S. 26, The Presidential Tax Transparency Act, to ensure that the longstanding practice of presidents and presidential candidates releasing their tax returns continues.

Sincerely,

Frank Clemente
Executive Director