ADVERTISEMENT

One could easily presume that a member of Congress sitting on the committee that writes the nation’s tax laws would be able to pay his taxes on time.

Apparently, that’s a bad assumption.

News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski recently uncovered evidence that Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, was late paying his property taxes 38 times between 2005 and this year, including 18 times since joining Congress in 2010.

Reed serves on the Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax laws – and, we’re guessing, frowns upon paying taxes late.

This should be Politics 101. Pay taxes. On time. Every year. Especially when sitting on a tax-writing committee. Nonetheless, Reed has found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to explain why he failed to follow this simple rule.

Reed’s reasons for late payments for properties he owns or has owned in Steuben and Chemung counties, in addition to his family home, start with the unsurprising response about being unaware of the scope of the problem, for which he has paid $3,486.51 in interest and penalties.

He also says that he has been involved in many investment properties, sometimes on his own and other times with partners. He also notes that he’s probably made at least 500 property tax payments since 2005, apparently implying that it’s OK to miss a few.

He did manage to angrily lash out at the disclosure of the non-payments, blaming Democrats for “character assassination.” It’s a disappointing reaction from an otherwise astute politician.

Reed’s likely Democratic opponent, Tompkins County Legislature Chairwoman Martha Robertson of Dryden, claims she didn’t know anything about Reed’s late tax payments.

But it is safe to say that the issue will resurface in the upcoming campaign in the 23rd Congressional District, which covers an area just north of the Pennsylvania border from Chautauqua County in the west to Ithaca in the east.

Whether you agree with James E. Campbell, a professor of political science at the University at Buffalo, who called Reed’s late payments a sign of “sloppiness” and nothing more, or Larry Sabato, the director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Virginia, who called Reed’s tax tardiness “foolish” and “not acceptable,” the fact remains that Reed himself created an unnecessary and embarrassing issue.