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California State Capitol. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Income Tax Disclosures for California Candidates

The State has mandated that extensive amounts of information be provided to voters

By Chris Micheli, January 30, 2022 9:04 am

California’s Elections Code includes income tax disclosure requirements in Division 8, Part 5. Section 8900 contains legislative findings and declarations that the State of California has a strong interest in ensuring that its voters make informed, educated choices in the voting booth. “To this end, the State has mandated that extensive amounts of information be provided to voters, including county and state voter information guides.

“Moreover, the Legislature finds and declares that the income tax returns of candidates for Governor provide voters with essential information regarding the candidate’s potential conflicts of interest, business dealings, financial status, and charitable donations. The information in tax returns therefore helps voters to make a more informed decision.

“The Legislature further finds and declares that, as one of the largest centers of economic activity in the world, the State of California has a special interest in state elected officials refraining from corrupt or self-enriching behaviors while in office. The People of California can better estimate the risks of any given candidate for Governor engaging in corruption or the appearance of corruption if they have access to candidates’ tax returns.

“Finally, the State of California has an interest in ensuring that any violations of statutory prohibitions on behavior such as insider trading are detected and punished. Mandated disclosure of the tax returns of candidates for Governor will enable enforcement of the laws against whichever candidates are elected to those offices. The Legislature finds and declares that compliance costs with this requirement will be trivial.”

Section 8901 defines the term “income tax return.” Section 8902 provides that the name of a candidate for Governor cannot be printed on a direct primary election ballot unless the candidate, at least 88 days before the direct primary election, files with the Secretary of State copies of every income tax return the candidate filed with the Internal Revenue Service in the five most recent taxable years.

Section 8903 requires the candidate to submit to the Secretary of State two copies of each tax return required to be filed. One copy is without redactions and the second copy of each tax return is redacted, including social security numbers, home address, medical information, dependent names, and other specified information.

Within five days of receipt of the candidate’s tax returns, the Secretary of State is required to make redacted versions of the tax returns available to the public on the Secretary of State’s internet website. Upon completion of the official canvass, the Secretary of State shall remove the public versions of the tax returns.

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