California to President: Release Your Tax Returns

Daily Tax Report: State provides authoritative coverage of state and local tax developments across the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, tracking legislative and regulatory updates,...

By Laura Mahoney

Presidential candidates would be blocked from appearing on the California ballot if they don’t release their tax returns under a bill headed to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D).

S.B. 149 by Sen. Mike McGuire (D) won final passage Sept. 15 when the Senate voted 27-11 to concur in amendments made in the Assembly. It passed the Assembly 54-23 on Sept. 14 and first passed the Senate in May. The votes in both houses were mostly on party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

Republicans who opposed the bill said they would support it if it also applied to members of the California Legislature and other state elected officials.

Before the final vote, McGuire said the president and vice president are the only elected officials in the country who aren’t subject to conflict of interest laws. President Donald Trump’s failure to release his tax returns during the 2016 election inspired the bill, but he argued the party affiliation of the candidate doesn’t matter.

Brown has until Oct. 15 to sign or veto the bill. He hasn’t taken a position on it.

Strict State Rules

The California governor, state lawmakers, city council members, school board members, and even special services district officials “have to comply with a stricter conflict of interest law than the president of the United States,” he said. “For forty years, the Democrats and Republicans alike have released their tax returns. It’s time California holds this president and all future presidents accountable.”

Under the bill, candidates for U.S. president would have to file their income tax returns for the most recent five years with the California Secretary of State, who would redact them for privacy purposes before releasing them to the public. Write-in votes for candidates who don’t appear on the ballot because they haven’t released their returns wouldn’t be counted.

According to a legislative staff analysis, the bill is likely to be challenged in court on constitutional grounds if it becomes law.

More than 20 states introduced legislation this year to compel the disclosure of tax documents from presidential candidates. A New Jersey bill passed both chambers, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed the measure in May.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif., at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer McLoughlin at

For More Information

More information about S.B. 149 is at

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