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Rep. Bartlett won't release tax returns that would shed light on property sale income

July 25, 2008

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) -- Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett said Friday he didn't make any money off several property sales he underreported or failed to report on federally mandated financial disclosure forms.

Bartlett had said earlier Friday that he wouldn't release personal income tax returns that would show whether he reported any income from the sales to the Internal Revenue Service.

But in an interview with The Associated Press, Bartlett, R-Md., said he lost money on the sales of three properties in question and produced a letter from an accountant supporting that claim.

letter signed by Frederick accountant John F. Dallavalle stated that Bartlett "lost money in the aggregate" from the sales of the three properties. But the letter didn't specify the amount lost.

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"I made no money on any of these houses," Bartlett said.

Bartlett provided the AP with a list of expenses for renovations to the three houses totaling about $737,000.

He said he wouldn't release his tax returns because he isn't legally required to do so.

It was reported earlier this week that state property records indicate Bartlett underreported or failed to report about $1 million in property sales on his financial disclosure forms since 2004.

On Friday, Bartlett attributed the discrepancies to his inattentiveness and confusion by others, including a staff member who might have misread his handwritten notes.

Bartlett spokeswoman Lisa Wright said earlier Friday that the staff member mistook the numeral 4 in Bartlett's notes for a 1. Bartlett said he doesn't know exactly what caused the error that led to his underreporting the selling price of a house in Ijamsville, Md., by more than $300,000 on his 2004 disclosure form.

It also was reported that Bartlett failed to disclose the 2004 sale, for $449,000, of a house that Bartlett built with his son near Mount Pleasant, Md. On Friday, Bartlett said there was a mix-up caused in part by the U.S. Postal Service's slowness in assigning an address to the house.

Bartlett said his failure to report the 2006 sale of a house in Knoxville, Md., for $299,900 was "a stupid omission" on his part.

Bartlett's congressional staff prepares his personal financial disclosure forms because filing the documents is a requirement for congressmen and congressional candidates, he said. He and his wife prepare their own personal income tax returns.

Bartlett's Democratic challenger in the 6th District, Jennifer P. Dougherty, said the revelations have made Bartlett's truthfulness an issue. But she stopped short of demanding that he release his tax returns.

"Once you make the mistake, should you go ahead and try to prove it was just one mistake or multiple mistakes?" Dougherty said. "I think he does have to make a decision on whether it's important to prove that."

Dougherty said she sees no need to release her income tax returns because their accuracy hasn't been questioned.

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