Levin bill requires 10 years of tax returns for presidential candidates

Jul 19, 2012

Pouncing on the controversy over Mitt Romney’s resistance to release multiple tax returns, U.S. Rep. Sander Levin has prepared legislation that would require presidential candidates to release 10 years of income tax returns and to disclose overseas financial accounts.

The bill, an amendment to the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, comes on the heels of Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, standing firm and saying he will only add to his previous release of his 2010 IRS return the disclosure of his 2010 return when it is complete. Levin also called on the former governor to immediately release 10 years of tax returns.

“The stunning lack of transparency from someone in pursuit of the highest office in the country highlights the need to change the law to require fuller disclosure,” said Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat who represents most of Macomb County, in a statement.

“For decades, presidential candidates have voluntarily provided a thorough accounting of their tax returns and finances, as they should. But we clearly cannot continue to rely solely on the willingness of a candidate to disclose fully what the public has a right to know about the candidate’s financial record.”

A former businessman, Romney would be among the nation’s wealthiest presidents if elected. He has said that he doesn’t want to release thousands of pages of complicated tax returns because it would supply the Democratic Party with a wealth of material to nitpick and produce exaggerations.

But Romney’s defiance stands as a stark deviation from a tradition created in part by Romney’s father, George, a presidential candidate a generation ago who released 12 years of his returns. In addition, news reports have indicated that Romney released 23 years of tax returns to the 2008 McCain campaign when he hoped to become the Arizona senator’s vice presidential running mate.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen prominent Republican officials and pundits have urged Romney to give up the fight because it makes him look like a candidate who is not transparent. The limited tax information Romney released so far revealed a Swiss bank account and financial interests in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

The Levin legislation would require: the location, value, and economic purpose of each offshore account; details of any ongoing financial arrangement between the candidate and an individual or corporate entity; disclosure of assets, such as those held in tax-advantaged accounts such as IRAs and 401(k) plans; and details of the assets and financial activities of an entity in which the candidate has a controlling interest.