Ilhan Omar: Errors & omissions

The Star Tribune noticed that Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar filed illegal joint returns with Ahmed Hirsi in 2014 and 2015 in yesterday’s story by Patrick Condon and Patrick Coolican. The illegal returns came to light in connection with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board investigation of Omar for her misuse of campaign funds for personal purposes. Condon hadn’t even mentioned the illegal returns in his idiotic story on the board’s findings this past Thursday.

The Condon/Coolican story expresses awareness of “conservative critics” of Omar and cites our friend Michelle Malkin query: “Time to get federal IRS officials involved?” They also quote Michelle question that might have been addressed to the Star Tribune: “What say you all?” Without naming us, the story cites Power Line as the “conservative blog” that fomented the crisis inducing expenditures by Omar’s “crisis committee” for Omar’s personal benefit.

Forgive me for pausing here. I’m marking that down as a point of pride.

Well, in response to Michelle’s question, what does the Star Tribune say? Condon and Coolican take up the possibility that it might all have been a simple mistake on Omar’s part — even though Omar herself says nothing of the kind and it is not apparent that the Star Tribune even asked her how it happened. Instead, Condon and Coolican go to the experts to consider the possibility that it might have been a simple mistake:

Chris Wittich, an accountant who specializes in taxes at the Bloomington accounting firm Boyum Barenscheer, said that without seeing the returns it’s not possible to say whether any couple saved money by filing jointly. Wittich agreed to discuss tax filing errors generally, and not the Omar situation specifically.

“Filing jointly with the wrong person is really bad news for both of those people,” Wittich said. “They have signed up for joint liability.”

Don Cochran, an accountant and tax lawyer with his own firm, said if the tax savings is more than 10%, a substantial penalty applies. Misunderstanding a tax law is “not a serious problem,” he said, but proof of intent typically brings dramatically higher penalties, he said.

Wittich said good-faith errors are common in tax preparation. And Cochran said that, notwithstanding the ominous warning on tax forms that reads “under the penalty of perjury,” tax filers who make mistakes rarely face criminal jeopardy.

“It’s difficult to prove, and unusual,” Cochran said, again speaking generally. “The IRS doesn’t want to prosecute bad judgment.”

My guess is that Rep. Omar filed joint tax returns with Hirsi for many years going back to 2002, but we know that she filed two such returns for 2014 and 2015. If her joint filings with Hirsi reflected an innocent mistake, she should say so.

On the contrary, however, fraudulent intent would not be difficult to prove under the circumstances. Omar could not have reasonably believed that she lawfully filed joint tax returns with a man who was not her husband for tax years 2014 and 2015 — while she was married to another man. Could she? You don’t need an expert for the answer to that question.

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