State legislators across the country are debating new measures that would require candidates running for president to publicly disclose their tax returns to qualify for the ballot. The measures are aimed at President Trump, who became the first White House candidate in recent times refuse to release his tax documents to the public. Democrats, incensed by Trump’s false claims of being prevented from releasing the documents because of an IRS audit, see the legislation on the state level as a way to force the president’s hand when he seeks reelection in 2020. “Tax return information would provide some transparency there to give voters the assurance that they need that the president is acting on behalf of us,” said Kathleen Clyde, an Ohio state representative who recently introduced a version of the bill. “It is problematic that he is the only candidate in 30 or 40 years not to provide that information.”
Clyde’s bill, the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act — the TRUMP Act — would require candidates for president and vice president to disclose five years of tax documents to Ohio’s Secretary of State, who would then post the documents online. Only after a candidate disclosed the tax information would he or she qualify for the ballot in one of the nation’s most hotly contested battlegrounds.
Similar measures requiring candidates to file with Secretary of State offices have been introduced in California, Oregon and Tennessee. Candidates would be required to file tax documents with state boards of election under bills filed in Illinois, Maryland, New York and Rhode Island.
Other versions of the legislation would require presidential candidates to disclose their tax records in public, though not necessarily through state offices, before they qualify for the ballot. All told, 32 versions of tax disclosure bills have been filed in 19 states.