A former prosecutor in the Watergate investigation believes that revelations from a recent report on President Trump’s tax returns over the past several years may result in legal troubles related to allegations of tax fraud for the president once he leaves office.
Nick Akerman, who served as a prosecutor in the investigation of former President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, explained in an interview on CNN Tuesday that Trump’s tax records, as revealed in a New York Times report from over the weekend, don’t simply demonstrate that he was able to find loopholes to avoid paying taxes for 10 of the 15 years prior to winning the presidency — they also show he likely engaged in criminal actions related to his tax filings during that time.
“It looks like Trump has done a whole series of activities that could qualify as tax fraud, not tax avoidance,” Akerman said.
The distinction is an important one, he added. “Tax avoidance is simply taking the tax code and getting the most deductions you can get under the code that is perfectly legal,” Akerman said. “Tax fraud, however, is lying about what your income was, lying about what your deductions are, and there’s a couple of items that just stand out in that report from the New York Times that really appear to go beyond tax avoidance.”
Akerman paid particular attention in his comments to Trump’s payments to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, noting that he listed her as a consultant and paid her more than $740,000, according to his tax filings. As Ivanka Trump was then an employee of the Trump Organization, hiring her to be a consultant for the very company she worked at would be an extreme conflict of interest, one that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) generally takes very seriously.
“There is no legitimate reason for her to get those consulting fees since she was being paid already as a Trump employee,” Akerman said, adding that the “only possible reason” to pay Ivanka Trump as a consultant was to “move money around so that it wouldn’t be taxed to Donald Trump.”
In a tweet discussing the same matter, Akerman noted that Trump’s actions were not dissimilar to what his father, Fred Trump Sr., had done in the past.
“Payments of sham consulting fees to Ivanka to evade income taxes is like what Trump’s father did in paying bogus expenses to a phony company to evade estate taxes,” Akerman wrote.
It has long been contended that Trump employs a number of questionable and possibly illegal methods to avoid paying taxes. In the spring of 2019, for example, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress that the president, in his previous life as a business mogul, exaggerated his worth when it suited his needs but undervalued himself on other documents when it helped him to evade taxes.
“It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes,” Cohen said at the time. He also alleged that Trump inflated his net worth to help attain loans from lenders or when he was trying to insure his properties.
Documents obtained from ProPublica in December seemed to confirm those suspicions, demonstrating that the Trump Organization gave two conflicting accounts, one to a potential lender and the other to New York City property tax officials, when it came to the value of Trump Tower.