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 PortmanMisinformation campaign is at the center of opposition to common sense sex trafficking legislation This week: Congress races to prevent third shutdown With bills on the table, Congress must heed the call to fix our national parks 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 BaucusFarmers hit Trump on trade in new ad Feinstein’s trouble underlines Democratic Party’s shift to left 2020 Dems pose a big dilemma for Schumer MORE (D-Mont.), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSenate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed Week ahead: Lawmakers scramble to avoid another shutdown Lighthizer set to testify before Senate Finance on trade next week 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) SandersSenate tees up Yemen vote for Tuesday Sanders supporters cancel Clinton protest Congress moving to end US involvement in Yemen 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 Tech: Facebook faces crisis over Cambridge Analytica data | Lawmakers demand answers | What to watch for next | Day one of AT&T's merger trial | Self-driving Uber car kills pedestrian Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump-linked data firm Cambridge Analytica attracts scrutiny | House passes cyber response team bill | What to know about Russian cyberattacks on energy grid Cambridge Analytica: Five things to watch 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 FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresGOP focuses on law enforcement mistakes — not new gun laws Right revolts on budget deal Emboldened conservatives press Ryan to bring hard-right immigration bill to floor 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.