Newsom Pledged to Release His Tax Returns While In Office. He Hasn't Done So Since 2020.

Gavin Newsom (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
January 8, 2024

California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) pledged to be the first California governor to release his tax returns annually. He has yet to do so for the 2021 or 2022 tax years.

Just before assuming office in 2018, a Newsom spokesman promised that Newsom would "release his tax returns every year, just as he has done as a candidate." The pledge drew praise as well as speculation about his presidential aspirations, as he tried to strike a contrast with former president Donald Trump. It came after Newsom spent years bashing Trump for failing to release his own returns, suggesting that he was hiding tax evasion. The governor likewise blasted former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 for disclosing just two years’ worth of returns, calling it "inexcusable."

But the latest tax filing Newsom released was for the 2020 tax year, which he did not post until 2022 as he and every other gubernatorial candidate were legally required to do for his reelection bid. The tax forms that he released prior to this as part of his transparency pledge were only made available to journalists who could not take photos of them. Since then he has taken a hiatus, even as he lays the groundwork for a potential presidential run. Newsom’s pledge to release his returns and his repeated criticisms of Trump make the lapse look like a political mistake, some analysts say.

"It’s an easily avoidable error," said Dan Schnur, former chair of California's political reform commission and longtime GOP strategist. "It doesn’t seem to make sense to wait until there’s more of an outcry."

Others note that despite his promise, Newsom doesn’t legally have to release his returns, nor does he have to worry about optics in Democrat-run Sacramento.

"Governor Newsom is not on the ballot in 2024, so he does not face a great deal of political pressure to release his returns," said John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. "Democrats are not pressing him on the issue. Republicans have little standing to do so, since Trump released his returns to a congressional committee only after losing a fight at the Supreme Court."

A spokeswoman for the governor’s office referred the Washington Free Beacon to Newsom’s political spokesman, who did not respond to a request for comment.

Ahead of his reelection bid, Newsom posted filings for 2017 through 2020, but not his 2021 return, according to the archived Secretary of State website where the filings were posted and later scrubbed. These forms show annual incomes exceeding $1 million—and as high as $1.7 million in 2019—primarily from Newsom’s business holdings.

He also has yet to post his 2022 returns—although they weren’t due until November after the IRS gave Californians a lengthy tax payment extension to help those battered by storms in early 2023.

Prior to his election-year public posting of his returns, Newsom released his 2019 filings—which showed his earnings from his first year in office—in 2021 and his 2018 filings in 2020. On both occasions, only members of the press could review the returns, which they were not allowed to photograph.

Newsom owns considerable stakes in the PlumpJack Group, a lucrative wine and hospitality business, which he launched along with oil heir billionaire Gordon Getty—who also helped underwrite his political career. The group’s properties include four luxury Napa wineries, San Francisco restaurants, and a boutique ski hotel in Tahoe. While in office Newsom placed his holdings in a blind trust managed by a friend. PlumpJack’s daily operations are overseen by his sister Hilary and another partner.

Published under: Gavin Newsom , Taxes