The New York Times has just revealed one of the primary reasons that Donald Trump has yet to make any of his tax returns public. According to the newspaper, the president has engaged in “outright tax fraud” that greatly augmented the large inheritance that he received from his family and undermines his carefully constructed if obviously false image as a self-made billionaire.
After gaining access to a “vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records,” The New York Times’ investigation “reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.”
Trump received much of this money, according to records and interviews, by helping his parents evade taxes, setting up phony corporations along with his siblings to launder millions of dollars in gifts from Fred and Mary Trump.
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The records also show that the president helped his father save millions through “improper tax deductions” and designed a scheme to avoid millions in inheritance taxes on the family real estate empire by undervaluing their worth by hundreds of millions of dollars on the family’s tax returns in advance of the transfer of the properties to him and his siblings.
The financial chicanery was overlooked by the IRS, The Times discovered, and the president’s parents transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which normally would have resulted in a tax bill of at least $550 million under the then 55 percent tax rate on gifts and inheritances. Instead, the Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show.
The New York Times based its reporting on;
“interviews with Fred Trump’s former employees and advisers and more than 100,000 pages of documents describing the inner workings and immense profitability of his empire. They include documents culled from public sources — mortgages and deeds, probate records, financial disclosure reports, regulatory records, and civil court files.”
“The investigation also draws on tens of thousands of pages of confidential records — bank statements, financial audits, accounting ledgers, cash disbursement reports, invoices, and canceled checks. Most notably, the documents include more than 200 tax returns from Fred Trump, his companies and various Trump partnerships and trusts.”
Despite the obvious quantity of detailed investigative work and hard-nosed reporting that went into the story, President Trump is already attacking the newspaper with cries of “fake news.” A lawyer for the president naturally redefined the meaning of the word facts in responding to the story.
“The New York Times’s allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory,” Charles Harder, Trump’s attorney said. “There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone. The facts upon which The Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate.”
Mr. Harder sought to distance the president from any potential liability in directing the tax scams by shifting the blame to other family members and outside tax preparation experts.
“President Trump had virtually no involvement whatsoever with these matters,” he said. “The affairs were handled by other Trump family members who were not experts themselves and therefore relied entirely upon the aforementioned licensed professionals to ensure full compliance with the law.”
The president’s low-profile brother Robert Trump released a statement on behalf of the Trump family essentially saying that their parents’ estates have been closed by both state and federal tax authorities since 2004, that all taxes were paid, and that they have no other comment other than to let their parents rest in peace.
This latest evidence of criminal financial behavior by Donald Trump and his family provide new insight into why the president is so adamant in keeping the public from viewing his personal income tax returns. While the statute of limitations has already expired for criminal prosecution of the most egregious acts of tax evasion, there is no limit for the levying of civil fines for tax fraud.
Even more damaging to Donald Trump’s monstrous, but ultimately precariously fragile, ego is the fact that these newly uncovered financial details completely undermine the president’s purposefully designed origin story as a billionaire who received just a small handout (of $1 million!) from his father to start his own “successful” businesses.
Instead, The Times‘ report paints a portrait of a spoiled rich kid who was born with a golden spoon in his mouth and cheated his way to the riches he claims he actually earned.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.