NYT Uncovers Potentially Illegal Trump Tax Maneuver Involving Vegas Casino

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In 2016, Donald Trump freed up millions in cash with a highly unusual maneuver that tax experts say could be illegal.

In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump freed up millions in cash with a highly unusual maneuver that tax experts say could be illegal, according to The New York Times.

  • During its review of the president’s tax returns, The Times discovered that Trump had “engineered a sudden financial windfall — more than $21 million in what experts describe as highly unusual one-off payments from the Las Vegas hotel he owns with his friend the casino mogul Phil Ruffin.”

The tax records, by their nature, do not specify whether the more than $21 million in payments from the Trump-Ruffin hotel helped prop up Mr. Trump’s campaign, his businesses or both. But they do show how the cash flowed, in a chain of transactions, to several Trump-controlled companies and then directly to Mr. Trump himself.

The bulk of the money went through a company called Trump Las Vegas Sales and Marketing that had little previous income, no clear business purpose and no employees. The Trump-Ruffin joint venture wrote it all off as a business expense.

  • While more information would be needed to determine the legitimacy of the payments, experts in tax and campaign finance law told The Times, there could be legality issues.

“Why all of a sudden does this company have more than $20 million in fees that haven’t been there before?” said Daniel Shaviro, a professor of taxation at the New York University School of Law. “And all of this money is going to a man who just happens to be running for president and might not have a lot of cash on hand?”

  • Shaviro said if the payments were not for actual business expenses, then claiming a tax deduction for them would be illegal. He also said if they were illegitimate and subsequently used for Trump’s presidential campaign, then the payments could be construed as illegal campaign contributions.
  • Asked by The Times for comment, White House spokesperson Judd Deere called the article “yet another politically motivated hit piece inaccurately smearing a standard business deal,” adding that “during his years as a successful businessman, Donald Trump was longtime partners with Phil Ruffin and earned whatever payments he received.”

In previous reporting on Trump's tax returns, The Times wrote that the documents revealed "struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due."

Read the full report.


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