Donald Trump has resisted calls to release his tax returns, something that is common for presidential nominees over the past 40 years. (Bloomberg photo) Donald Trump has resisted calls to release his tax returns, something that is common for presidential nominees over the past 40 years. (Bloomberg photo)

Donald Trump has resisted calls to release his tax returns, something that is common for presidential nominees over the past 40 years. (Bloomberg photo)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher September 28, 2016

Is Donald Trump the only major-party nominee in 40 years not to release his tax returns?

On Sept. 19, 2016, the Wisconsin Democratic Party called on Donald Trump to release his tax returns, issuing a statement that quoted U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., as saying:

"The time is way past due for Donald Trump to release his tax returns, as every other major party nominee has done for the past 40 years."

So, let’s see if that’s what every Democratic and Republican presidential nominee since 1976 has done.

Wayback machine

Baldwin has taken aim at Trump before, since he became the GOP nominee.

In August 2016, we rated Half True her claim that Trump "has a long history of exporting jobs overseas." Trump-brand products such as his clothing have been made overseas, but those jobs were always abroad, not U.S. jobs that were moved.

To back her current claim, Baldwin’s campaign cited editorials from the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which said Trump would be the first major party candidate since 1976 -- 40 years ago -- not to release his tax returns. Also cited was an editorial from the Boston Globe, which said it’s been more than 40 years.

But there is an exception.

We checked an archive of presidential tax returns maintained by the Tax Analysts, a publisher specializing in tax policy. It shows that going back to 1976, all but one major-party nominee released at least one return.

Only Republican Gerald Ford, who lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976, did not release returns (he released summary tax data), the archive shows. FactCheck.org also found Ford to be the one exception.

Joe Thorndike, the Tax History Project director at Tax Analysts, told us that Ford’s summaries were clearly not the same as tax returns. For instance, they didn’t provide detailed information on things such as sources of income and charitable contributions.

Moreover, it’s impossible to know what might be in a return unless you see the return.

It's also worth noting that while some nominees have released numerous years of returns – 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole provided 30 years’ worth – others have not. In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan released only one return and in 2012, Republican Mitt Romney released two.

In the 2016 race, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has released returns from 2000 through 2015.

As for Trump, he has said he hasn’t released his taxes because he is being audited. When he claimed he "released the most extensive financial review of anybody in the history of politics. … You don't learn much in a tax return," PolitiFact National’s rating was False.

Trump did release an extensive (and legally required) document detailing his personal financial holdings. But experts say tax returns would offer valuable details on his effective tax rate, the types of taxes he paid and how much he gave to charity, as well as a more detailed picture of his assets.

Our rating

Baldwin says that except for Trump, "every other major party nominee" for the past 40 years has released their tax returns.

She’s almost right. During that period, the only major-party presidential nominee who didn’t release returns was Ford, the Republican nominee in 1976. It's also worth noting that many nominees have released numerous years of returns, but some have released only one or two.

We rate Baldwin’s statement Mostly True.

https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/3b799eb7-8454-41ff-a343-3c13c44e9c78

Our Sources

Wisconsin Democratic Party, statement, Sept. 19, 2016

Email, Tammy Baldwin campaign spokesman Scott Spector, Sept. 21, 2016

Tax Analysts, archive of presidential tax returns, accessed Sept. 21, 2016

Interview, Tax Analysts’ Tax History Project director Joe Thorndike, Sept. 22, 2016

PunditFact, "Most GOP nominees since 1970s have released their tax returns, Fox's Chris Wallace says," May 18, 2016

PolitiFact National, "It’s ‘typical’ for a presidential candidate to release 10 or 11 years of tax returns," Aug. 1, 2012

PolitiFact National, "DNC says presidential candidates usually release tax returns but Romney won't," Dec. 16, 2011

FactCheck.org, "Romney and the Tax Return Precedent," July 19, 2012

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

Is Donald Trump the only major-party nominee in 40 years not to release his tax returns?

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