Do my own taxes? I would not dare!

Do my own taxes? I would not dare!

Tax forms are too complex for members of Congress to fill out on their own, several lawmakers told The Hill.

In fact, when broached with the question, “Do you fill out your own tax forms?” most members burst out laughing before admitting it was just too complicated.

“I’m a former business lawyer,” Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWeek ahead in tech: Debate over online sex trafficking bill heats up 'Hillbilly Elegy' author won't run for Senate Brown, Portman urge Trump administration to move quickly on a steel decision MORE (R-Ohio) said, adding that he’s served on tax-writing committees during his time in Congress. “I know a lot about tax policy as a result, but I would not dare to do my own taxes.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said: “I did taxes for other people for a long time. I could not possibly do taxes now for myself.”

He points out that it wouldn’t be prudent from him to do his own taxes because his charity foundation — the Issa Family Foundation — and his business interests make his returns complicated. 

Issa, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has done other people’s taxes in the past. 

“My own, because of my foundation and other work, wouldn’t work,” he said.

Portman and Issa aren’t alone.

A report from the National Taxpayer Advocate, released in January, cited “the complexity of the tax code as the #1 most serious problem facing taxpayers.”

In 2012, nearly 60 percent of taxpayers hired paid preparers, while another 30 percent rely on commercial software, the report found. 

It also noted that there are nearly 4 million words in the tax code and that, since 2011, Congress has made nearly 5,000 changes to it — an average of more than one a day.

Even the top lawmakers on the tax-writing committees, who write the laws that govern the code, admit they get outside help.

Michigan Rep. Sandy Levin, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, uses an accountant.

“I did my own for, I would guess, 20-some years,” he said, citing complications with the alternative minimum tax as the reason he stopped.

“My daughter claims I could do it with this new technology, but when I looked at my return and how you calculate the AMT, it’s complicated.”

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chairman of the Ways and Means panel, also uses an accountant, as does Sen. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBernie Sanders flexes power on single-payer ObamaCare architect supports single-payer system Trump has yet to travel west as president MORE (D-Mont.), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchFinance to hold hearing on ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea Week ahead in finance: Clock ticking for GOP on tax reform MORE (R-Utah), the ranking member on the Finance Committee, said he wouldn’t feel comfortable doing his own taxes. 

“I just think with all the rules it’s just better to have a professional do them, and hopefully do them right,” Hatch said. “I can do them. I used to do, but it’s just a matter of making sure they’re right.”

Given the greater public scrutiny politicians are under, it makes sense many of them would have a professional check their work — making a mistake on their tax returns could be political suicide.

“I do a first draft, but then I send it to an accountant to check everything and to just make sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed,” Portman told The Hill. 

“It’s fairly complicated, so I’ve always taken advantage of a professional.”

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight MORE, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, does the same.

“My wife does most of them, but I do get them checked,” he said.

Every year The Hill publishes a list of the wealthiest lawmakers. Sanders’s wealth is too low to make into the top 50.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz), who falls outside the top 50 wealthiest, has his wife does the couple’s taxes, according to the congressman’s office.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) is one of the few lawmakers The Hill found that does his own taxes — although it’s a practice he won’t continue for much longer. 

“I do my own,” he said, noting he uses TurboTax. “I’m pretty soon not going to do that anymore. It’s getting complicated.”

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Overnight Tech: Equifax hit by earlier undisclosed hack | Facebook takes heat over Russian ads | Alt-right Twitter rival may lose domain Facebook under fire over Russian ads in election MORE (D-Va.), who was one of the richest lawmakers on The Hill’s 2012 list, has a firm do his taxes.

“I, for probably close to 30 years, have had others do them. I’ve got a pretty extensive business career and I wouldn’t trust myself to do my own taxes,” he said, noting his filing usually tops more than 100 pages.

There is one group of lawmakers that does tend to fill out their own returns — those who are also CPAs. But they are the exception, not the rule.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) is an accountant who does her own taxes, as do Reps. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).

Rep. Bill FloresBill FloresOvernight Regulation: GOP takes aim at Endangered Species Act | DOJ expands asset seizures | FCC chief denies Trump interfered on Time Warner merger | Panel votes to ease driverless car regs House votes to streamline pipeline reviews Questions grow over Kushner’s security clearances MORE (R-Texas) is also a CPA, but he won’t be doing his taxes this year.

Flores’s office said that “this year the Congressman will have someone else do them. In years past he has done them himself but since coming to Congress he has not had the time to do it himself.”

He’s not the only lawmaker who cited Congress’s busy schedule.

Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) said “this year I’ll probably use an accountant because I’m caught up here a lot.”

He said in the past, “it’s been a mix. In years when it’s been a little more complex I’ve used an accountant. In other years it’s been simpler, I’ve done it myself.”

And, he said, he actually filled out the forms by hand, rather than using computer software.

Several lawmakers used the question of whether they fill out their own returns to argue for tax reform.

“One more reason we need more tax reform,” Warner said.

“I wish the code was simpler so I didn’t have to,” Portman noted.

Kevin Bogardus, Alex Lazar and Noura Alfadl-Andreasson contributed.