WASHINGTON -- Although Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney refuses to release his tax returns from the years prior to 2010, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama and key members of Congress could all view any tax document that Romney has filed. Under some circumstances, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could even verify whether his anonymous Bain investor was telling the truth that Romney "didn't pay any taxes for 10 years."
According to Title 26 of U.S. Code Section 6103, the treasury secretary can disclose any personal tax return to the president "or to such employee or employees of the White House Office as the President may designate."
Members of Congress can also access Romney's earlier tax returns by making a written request to Geithner. The Senate Finance Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation are all mentioned as committees that can access individual tax returns. The chairman of any other congressional committee can also obtain access for his or her entire panel, provided the request meets one caveat:
"A request by anyone except a tax-writing committee has to be accompanied by a Senate or House resolution," said Rebecca Wilkins, senior tax counsel at Citizens for Tax Justice.
Reid, for instance, is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Senate Republicans, however, would likely filibuster any formal resolution to see their presumptive presidential nominee's returns.
Even if Reid did request and receive Romney's tax returns, it's unlikely that he would be able to share any information about them with the public, unless Romney himself consented to the disclosure. Members of Congress can see the returns without Romney's consent, provided that any committee viewing the information is "sitting in closed executive session."
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Romney has denied Reid's tax allegations and said last week that he had paid federal income taxes at a rate of at least 13 percent every year for the past decade.
As for Reid, he has refused to publicly name his source, although his chief of staff, David Krone, has said Reid told him.
Reid's office told HuffPost that he is not interested in compelling the release of Romney's tax returns through procedural maneuvering.
"This is up to Romney, who seems to think he plays by a different set of rules," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson. "The only way he can clear this up is to release his returns, and that choice is his alone."
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