Health nominee Sebelius reveals tax errors

Health and Human services Secretary nominee Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius speaks after being introduced by President Barack Obama in the East Room at the White House in Washington, March 2, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Kathleen Sebelius, named as U.S. health secretary by President Barack Obama, became his latest nominee to reveal income tax issues, saying on Tuesday she paid nearly $8,000 to settle errors over three years.

Sebelius, the governor of Kansas, must pass a confirmation process in Congress before she can lead Obama’s overhaul of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare sector to cut costs and provide coverage to an estimated 46 million uninsured Americans.

“Unintentional errors” involving charitable contributions, mortgage interest and business expenses were revealed in a review of her and her husband’s tax returns by a certified accountant, prompting them to file amended returns, Sebelius wrote to top members of the Senate Finance Committee.

“As a result of these amendments to our 2005, 2006 and 2007 returns, we paid a total of $7,040 in additional tax and $878 in interest,” she said in the letter to Max Baucus, the Democratic head of the committee, and Charles Grassley, its ranking Republican.

Before Sebelius, Obama’s first choice as health secretary -- former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle -- withdrew after he acknowledged he delayed payment of some $140,000 in taxes and fines.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s nomination was criticized for late payment of $34,000 in taxes but he was eventually confirmed.

Baucus said he supported the nomination of Sebelius, who is due to testify to his committee on Thursday.

“Congress is going to need a strong partner at the Department of Health and Human Services to achieve comprehensive health reform this year, and we have that partner in Governor Sebelius,” Baucus said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Grassley said the senator “generally reserves judgment on nominees until the vetting process, including the nomination hearing, is completed.”

Reporting by John O’Callaghan; editing by Mohammad Zargham