Although the U.S. president is one of the most visible people in the country, the president’s finances have often been closely guarded. But after Richard Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, pleaded no contest in 1973 to tax evasion, the public became increasingly interested in financial disclosures from the president’s office.
Since the 1976 election, presidential candidates have released at least one year of tax returns. After winning that election, Jimmy Carter then set the precedent for all sitting presidents and vice presidents to release their returns each year. Since 1984, the standard for challengers to an incumbent president has been to disclose at least two years of returns, if not significantly more.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said he will meet this two-year standard. But 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain is the only other candidate to release just two years of returns in the last 34 years. Bob Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, set the tax-release record, disclosing 29 years of returns during his run for the White House.