Politicians Continue to Screw Up Their Taxes

When you’re deciding to run for political office, or if you’re currently in office, there are a few basic questions you should ask yourself repeatedly:

1. Do I actually want the job? (Fail: Fred Thompson, 2008)

2. Can I speak in coherent sentences and share my views on important issues? (Fail: Rick Perry, 2012.)

3. Am I carrying on an affair or do I have a habit of sending pornographic photos to strangers? (Fail: Anthony Weiner, Mark Sanford, Bill Clinton)

4. Have I done anything shady on my taxes? (Fail: Lots.)

For those politicians struggling with the test, the answer key is: Yes, Yes, No, and No. It’s question No. 4 I’d like to tackle today.

If you want to be a politician, do your taxes right. Don’t hire that sketchy accountant that works out of the back of the pawnshop to do your taxes. Don’t try to stretch it and take every single crazy deduction you can find, like your pricey dressage horse. Do pay all of the money you owe. Do make lots of donations to charity.

These things shouldn’t be that hard, but politicians continue to shoot themselves in the foot whenever the media asks about their taxes. Today, for example, the Globe reports that Congressman John Tierney, a Democrat, is refusing to make his taxes public:

“Tierney, meanwhile, has resisted disclosing any of his returns despite a public pledge to do so, numerous requests by the Globe, and new questions about whether he and his wife should have reported to the IRS at least some portion of the $200,000 that federal prosecutors say his wife received from a brother’s illegal gambling business, from 2003 to 2010.”

So why is Tierney refusing?

“Tierney’s congressional and campaign staffs refused to discuss issues related to Tierney’s taxes for almost three weeks and initially declined to release his returns, saying the Globe had not shown “good faith,” in the words of Tierney’s campaign manager.”

Good faith? Seriously? Congressman, do you know what good faith looks like? Paying all of your taxes appropriately and then submitting them for public examination. (We’re entrusting you with representing us!) Post your returns on your website if you don’t want the Globe to start the conversation. Or release them to the Herald. (Or us!) But don’t claim a lack of “good faith” as your reason for failing to reveal your taxes. No one believes you.