Trump Under Investigation by New York for New Tax Fraud Allegations
By Kenneth Lovett and Chris Sommerfeldt
New York state's tax department launched a review Tuesday of allegations that President Donald Trump committed fraud by dodging millions of dollars in taxes over the course of several years.
The announcement by the Department of Taxation and Finance came within hours of a bombshell report in The New York Times detailing dubious tax schemes that Trump participated in with the help and blessing of his late father, Fred Trump, in the 1990s.
"The Tax Department is reviewing the allegations in the NYT article and is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation," a spokesman for the department told the New York Daily News.
The Times story, which is based on a cache of confidential tax returns and financial records, states Trump has received at least $413 million from his father's real estate empire over the course of his life _ a drastic departure from the "small loan of a million dollars" the president claimed during the campaign was the only source of financial help his dad provided.
A significant chunk of the cash came into Trump's possession because he set up sham companies to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from his dad while also helping him take improper tax deductions by undervaluing his real estate holdings. Several of the machinations amounted to "outright fraud," according to experts.
Over the course of decades, Trump's parents reportedly funneled well over $1 billion to him and his siblings in gifts _ a figure that should have been subject to the state's 55 percent tax rate on such transactions. Instead, the Trumps paid a mere $52.2 million, or roughly 5 percent, in taxes, according to records.
The newly unearthed financial records and tax returns make clear that Trump's business ventures and financial well-being was deeply dependent on his dad's wealth _ a revelation that undercuts the president's longtime depiction of himself as a brilliant deal-maker and self-made billionaire.
A White House spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.
Charles Harder, who represents Trump in a variety of personal capacities, claimed the allegations are "extremely inaccurate" and said the president had no direct knowledge of any given tax scheme.
"President Trump had virtually no involvement whatsoever with these matters," Harder said in a statement. "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."
A state law enforcement source told the Daily News that it's unlikely the state tax department will be able to bring a criminal case against Trump over the fraud allegations, since the statute of limitations for such charges expired long ago.
However, there is no time limit on issuing civil fines for tax fraud.
"If Trump committed tax fraud even many decades ago, those tax returns are still open for re-examination," tweeted Daniel Shaviro, a professor of taxation law at New York University.
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