updated 4/16/2006 7:06:49 AM ET 2006-04-16T11:06:49

Many lawmakers who sit on the tax-writing committees in Congress hire professional preparers to fill out their tax returns, rather than try to decipher by themselves the laws they’ve written.

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Three of the four senior lawmakers on the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees, the panels in charge of writing tax laws, turn to paid professionals to file their annual returns.

The exception is Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., a former college professor who said he has prepared his own return “forever” and that he’d wait until close to the deadline to file.

“There’s no reason for me to pay Uncle Sam — pay, you heard that — until I have to,” he said.

Much in common with most Americans
According to IRS statistics, that makes these members of Congress much like the rest of the nation. More than 60 percent of taxpayers use professionals to have their returns prepared and filed. The number typically increases a little each year.

Some lawmakers have more complicated financial lives than the average taxpayer, making their tax returns more complicated. Some said they had a professional do the job to guarantee the return’s accuracy.

But a few prepare their tax returns themselves, including Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who said he does it “just so I can go through the process.” Ryan, however, does ask an accountant to check the return for accuracy.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., usually prepares his own taxes using computer software. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, prepares his and his children’s returns and mails them to the IRS.

Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., doesn’t, but he agreed it might be a good idea to try. “I think it is important that we operate in the real world,” Ramstad said.

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