WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama's choice to run the Treasury Department and lead the economic rescue effort disclosed to senators Tuesday that he failed to pay $34,000 in taxes from 2001 to 2004, a last-minute complication in an otherwise smooth path to confirmation.
Timothy Geithner paid most of the past-due taxes days before Obama announced his nomination in November, an Obama transition official said. The unpaid taxes were discovered by Obama's transition team while investigating Geithner's background, the official said.
The transition official requested anonymity because the source was not authorized to discuss Geithner's situation.
Obama reiterated his support Tuesday for Geithner as senators who are considering the appointment quizzed Geithner behind closed doors.
"He's dedicated his career to our country and served with honor, intelligence and distinction," incoming White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "That service should not be tarnished by honest mistakes, which, upon learning of them, he quickly addressed."
Geithner failed to pay self-employment taxes for money he earned while working for the International Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2003, the transition official said. In 2006, the IRS notified him that he owed $14,847 in self-employment taxes and $2,383 in penalties from 2003 and 2004.
Transition officials discovered last fall that Geithner also had not paid the taxes in 2001 or 2002. He paid $25,970 in taxes and interest for those years several days before Obama announced his nomination, the transition official said.
Geithner also didn't realize a housekeeper he paid in 2004 and 2005 did not have current employment documentation as an immigrant for the final three months she worked for him, the transition official said.
Geithner is the second Obama nominee to face controversy. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his name on Jan. 4 as Obama's Commerce secretary after questions surfaced about an ongoing federal investigation.