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Trump in BIG Charity Trouble


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Big League Trouble: Trump Faces New Questions About His Charity Finances



It’s not just where the money went from the Donald Trump Foundation that’s drawing scrutiny to GOP nominee. It’s also how the money came in.


A new Washington Post report this week presented cases where Trump directed third parties to pay monies owed to him or his businesses directly to the Donald J. Trump Foundation--monies that arguably should have been taxed as income to Trump.


But tax experts interviewed by TPM said the new revelations by the Post include a number of red flags. At best, the practice could be described as sloppy and driven by an extreme ignorance of the law, the experts said. At worst, it fits into a pattern of using the charity as a personal piggy bank. On their own, such allegations could be dealt with a minor slap on the wrist, but coupled with the Post’s previously surfaced examples of Trump using foundation money for his own benefit they fuel major concerns about how Trump’s charity has operated.


"It becomes really troubling, however, if he was diverting or pushing fees to a nonprofit and using those fees to benefit himself. That becomes a much more serious problem," Perlman said.

One former IRS regulator told TPM that, taken all together, the financial dealings surrounding the foundation would have forced him to “give some serious thought” to recommending a criminal investigation into the foundation’s practices.


“Once you see a pattern of that kind of egregious nature, you start to think if whether there’s an appropriate criminal referral there,” said Philip Hackney, a Louisiana State University Law Center professor who previously served in the IRS’ Office of the Chief Counsel as a senior technician reviewer for exempt organizations.


Monday's Washington Post story on third-party contributions to the Trump Foundation points to two specific cases where payments to Trump for goods and services went to the charity. In the first case, Comedy Central made a $400,000 donation in exchange for his appearance on a 2011 roast. In the second, contributions amounting to nearly $1.9 million came into the charity over time from a New York man named Richard Ebers, who two unnamed sources told the Post bought goods and services from Trump or his businesses.


“Is this is a one-off or is this something he encouraged?” asked Gordon Fischer, a lawyer in Iowa who specializes in charitable giving. “Assignment of income – that you could just give income you receive to your foundation and not pay tax on it – that’s sort of taxes 101, or at least 201. It’s a pretty basic thing.”


The major issue is that the payments identified by the Post should have been taxed as income, and the campaign has waffled in explaining exactly how Trump handled the transactions and whether they were reported as income.


First, campaign advisor Boris Epshteyn denied Trump ever directed the third party payments to his charity. Then, he said Trump did in fact follow “all applicable rules and regulations” in handling the payments.


Trump himself, meanwhile, has brushed off the whole affair by saying his lawyers handle the charity issues.


“I’d really like to know who those lawyers are, because they either gave him really bad advice or he didn’t listen to them,” said Lloyd Mayer, a Notre Dame Law School professor who teaches courses on not-for-profit organizations.





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