The Trump Organization Indictments

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that The Trump Organization and its Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, were indicted on 15 counts including grand larceny, conspiracy, and tax fraud.  The former President is (and has been) a very divisive figure, and the comments on this run the gamut from “witch hunt” to “justifiably deserved.”  Is this from a banana republic (as Dan McLaughlin alleged) or a “travesty of justice” (as the New York Post opined)?  The indictment can be read here.

First, note these are all allegations; no one has been found guilty.  It’s also possible that former President Trump had nothing to do with this and had no knowledge of it.  However, in a closely-held family business its usual that all senior personnel would be aware of something like this.

So are these serious charges?  Absolutely.  If we take the allegations as true, there was $556,000 in federal taxes, $107,000 in state taxes, and $238,000 in New York City taxes that were evaded.  You cannot deduct personal expenses on a business return–this is something we tell everyone.  (Do note that some businesses can take a Home Office deduction, and other similar items related to business use of home.)  I’d love it if my business could pay my mortgage, utilities, and property tax.  That would be decidedly dumb (and illegal), so I manage to pay those expenses myself.  Now, a business can pay personal expenses for an employee, but those expenses paid become additional compensation.  If we take the indictment’s allegations as true, that didn’t happen here.

Is the dollar amount involved enough to warrant criminal charges?  Yes.  This is over $900,000 in total tax evaded, and that’s more than enough to cause a criminal charge.  But are those on the right correct that the only reason there are criminal charges is Trump?  Almost certainly, yes.  The Manhattan District Attorney doesn’t like the former president, so he was a target.  In most tax investigations, if the business admits liability and agrees to pay the tax and penalties criminal indictments don’t happen.  However, if you’re a celebrity or a politician (or worse, both), the ‘normal’ rules don’t apply and you’re a target.  You need to be clean, because you will be audited.

(An interesting fact is that President Trump a few years ago noted that he had been audited almost constantly over time.  Yet the IRS didn’t come after him.  It may be that they didn’t see the information that the Manhattan D.A. saw, or it may be they didn’t find anything illegal.)

The Trump Organization’s attorney noted he’s never seen such an indictment; that when companies do things like this they normally pay a civil fine (along with the tax, penalties and interest).  Is this prosecution politically motivate?  Absolutely, and here I agree with the critics.  There’s no doubt that if it were my business accused of this we would have been offered that.

Still, the scheme (if true) is quite brazen and decidedly wrong.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year or so.



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