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Published: Tuesday, 8/5/2003

At least he knows the game

Tax cheats should not pursue judicial positions on the U.S. Tax Court. It's bad form for a tax court nominee to be called on the carpet during Senate hearings for filing improper expense deductions three years in a row.

But a man President Bush has nominated to be a judge on the U.S. Tax Court, Glen Bower, is still in the running even after the Senate panel reviewing his nomination discovered problems with his tax returns.

The Senate Finance Committee requires all nominees to submit their last three tax returns, and when the former director of the Illinois Department of Revenue did, the committee found about $2,000 in improper deductions for entertainment, gifts, and meals.

Mr. Bower was given the opportunity to clean up his tax returns and indeed, submitted an amended version of the questionable deductions to the committee. He paid the taxes owed and will pay additional interest to the Internal Revenue Service.

But remarkably, the panel found he came up short again on his tax returns. There were more improper deductions brought to his attention.

The committee's top Democrat, Max Baucus of Montana, wondered about Mr. Bower's “suitability to be a competent U.S. Tax Court judge.”

Apparently the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Charles Grassley of Iowa does not share those reservations. Despite Mr. Bower's repeated failures to get it right, the senator insists Mr. Bower is uniquely qualified for the job.

Could Senator Grassley be referring to the practical experience the administration's nominee might bring to the bench as a tax cheat?

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