The New York Times was careful to frame its article about Donald Trump’s hidden tax return info with couched references to “tax avoidance” rather than “tax evasion,” likely on the advice of its libel attorneys.
While tax avoidance is a perfectly legal, if morally dubious, strategy to reduce one’s federal income tax liability, tax evasion crosses the line into criminal territory and is punishable, depending on the nature and severity of the individual case, by a penalty of up to $250,000 and up to one to five years in federal prison as set forth in the handy dandy IRS Tax Crimes Handbook.
Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman, who dug into former President Richard Nixon’s tax crimes as part of that investigation, was less queasy about accusing Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka of criminal activity when he appeared anchor Erin Burnett’s program on CNN last night.
Beginning by saying that compared to Donald Trump, the disgraced former President Nixon was a “rookie amateur” in his IRS violations, Akerman boldly declared that The New York Times story that revealed that the current president paid no federal income taxes for at least 11 years and just $750 in 2016 and 2017 actually describes not “tax avoidance,” but multiple instances of tax fraud by both Trump and his daughter Ivanka.
“Tax avoidance is simply taking the tax code and getting the most deductions you can get under the code that is perfectly legal,” Akerman told CNN. “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.”
One item in particular that caught Akerman’s attention was the deduction for the $747,622 in consulting fees that the Trump Organization paid to an outside consultant for hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia in 2017.
Was it a bizarre coincidence that Ivanka Trump’s 2017 taxes, filed while she was still a paid executive at the Trump Organization, show a payment for that exact amount to a consulting firm that she co-owns?
Akerman thinks not.
“There is no legitimate reason for her to get those consulting fees since she was being paid already as a Trump employee,” Akerman said confidently. “The only possible reason for doing this was to somehow move money around so that it wouldn’t be taxed to Donald Trump but would in effect go on Ivanka Trump’s tax return, who probably had certain losses that she could take against it. So in the end, the government gets zero dollars.”
In the former prosecutor’s eyes, this would cross that line from tax avoidance into evasion and leads him to believe that there is “no question” that the president his daughter could face at least five years in prison for tax evasion.
“It is a pretty serious crime and the more money that is stolen the longer you go to jail for,” Akerman told Burnett. “The only thing saving him at this point is the Department of Justice’s guideline that says you can’t indict a sitting president,” he reminded the viewing audience.
Akerman pointed out the primary reason that Donald Trump is so desperate to win re-election by explaining what will likely happen if he loses to Joe Biden in the November contest.
“Any decent prosecutor looking at this evidence would be able to put together a pretty viable tax case,” the Watergate legal wunderkind said.
With Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. currently examining Trump’s financial records, Trump may face additional state charges in New York that even a presidential self-pardon can’t help him escape.
We can save the schadenfreude until the indictments are filed, but the opinion of an experienced federal prosecutor well-versed in presidential tax scams certainly gives one hope that our crooked president will one day face the music for his offenses, music that will be loud, painful, and very punishing.
You can watch former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman speak about the Trumps’ legal liability in the video attached below.
Ex-Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman says the NYT’s report on Trump’s taxes shows that both he and his daughter, Ivanka could face legal liabilities. “The only thing saving him at this point is the Department of Justice’s guideline that says you can’t indict a sitting president.” pic.twitter.com/kOytMsQTgQ
— CNN (@CNN) September 29, 2020
Original reporting by Common Dreams at RawStory.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.