Geithner's failure to pay taxes just an 'honest mistake'?
The Chicago Sun-Times
January 17, 2009
BY ROGER SIMON
Would it be OK if I stopped paying my taxes until Barack Obama names me to be his secretary of the Treasury?
That is a deal I would like to get. That is the deal financial wizard Timothy Geithner got.
He didn't pay all of his federal taxes for years. Then, after Obama decided to name him Treasury secretary, the president-elect's vetting team discovered Geithner's little oversight.
Not paying your taxes is considered serious for some people. But not for Geithner, a Wall Street "wonder boy" -- he is 47 -- who is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was instrumental in putting together the recent Wall Street bailout package.
You would think a guy like this would know about paying taxes, but no. Mistakes were made.
Geithner failed to pay the proper self-employment taxes for 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, even though he was sent documents telling him he had to do so.
But in 2006, Geithner got a document he couldn't ignore. The Internal Revenue Service sent Geithner a notice saying he had not paid his taxes for 2003 and 2004, and Geithner paid up.
But he did not pay up for 2001 and 2002, even though he must have known that he skipped taxes for those years, too.
He didn't pay those taxes until Obama decided he wanted Geithner to head the Treasury and sent vetters to look into Geithner's past.
The vetters discovered Geithner's little tax error in November and told Geithner. Then Geithner paid up, with interest. The vetters also told Obama, of course.
According to an article by Politico's Craig Gordon and Amie Parnes, Obama "decided to push ahead with the nomination anyway because he 'still wanted him.'"
At the end of the day, a source said, "Barack decided that he was the best person for a really important job."
OK, I get it.
The economy is teetering on the brink, and we need to cut corners a little. We can't be all that scrupulous and nitpicky when the future of the nation is at stake.
So in November, Team Obama announced that Geithner had this little problem and was paying his back taxes with interest and that it was all an honest mistake and no big deal, right?
Wrong. They decided to keep it a secret. But the Wall Street Journal discovered it and blew the whistle Tuesday.
The Senate Finance Committee has been looking into Geithner -- it has to vote on his appointment -- and discovered something else.
According to Gordon and Parnes: "In addition, Geithner included payments to overnight camps in calculating his dependent child care credit in 2001, 2004 and 2005.
His accountant informed him in 2006 that the camps were not allowable expenses. The committee notes that Geithner did not file amended returns to fix the mistake."
Can I get this deal? Can I ignore my accountant? He is always telling me that my trips to Vegas are not allowable under "necessary mental health expenses," and fool that I am, I keep listening to him.
The Geithner foul-up is different from the Bill Richardson foul-up. The Obama vetters were unable to get Richardson to give them all of the background information they needed, but Obama went ahead and appointed Richardson to the Cabinet anyway. Then that blew up, and Richardson withdrew his name.
With Geithner, the vetters found the bad stuff -- yay! -- but everybody thought they could sweep it under the rug. Boo.
Now Republicans are forcing a delay on the Geithner hearing until after Obama is inaugurated.
Team Obama says Geithner made "honest mistakes."
OK. I'll buy that. But as secretary of the Treasury, Geithner would be in charge of the Internal Revenue Service. And we will see how easy he is on other people when they say they made "honest mistakes."