The big bombshell in The New York Times tax returns story is, obviously, the fact that President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in each 2016 and 2017 – and for 10 of the 15 previous years, paid no federal income taxes at all.
But there’s another massive revelation contained in the Times’ reporting that isn’t getting nearly enough attention: Trump wrote off $26 million in unexplained “consulting fees” between 2010 and 2018, with almost $750,000 apparently going to his daughter, Ivanka, in one disclosure.
Here’s how the Times explained the setup (bolding is mine):
“Mr. Trump reduced his taxable income by treating a family member as a consultant, and then deducting the fee as a cost of doing business.
“The ‘consultants’ are not identified in the tax records. But evidence of this arrangement was gleaned by comparing the confidential tax records to the financial disclosures Ivanka Trump filed when she joined the White House staff in 2017. Ms. Trump reported receiving payments from a consulting company she co-owned, totaling $747,622, that exactly matched consulting fees claimed as tax deductions by the Trump Organization for hotel projects in Vancouver and Hawaii.
“Ms. Trump had been an executive officer of the Trump companies that received profits from and paid the consulting fees for both projects — meaning she appears to have been treated as a consultant on the same hotel deals that she helped manage as part of her job at her father’s business.”
So consider what we know, according to the Times reporting.
1) In at least two deals – hotels in Hawaii and Vancouver, Ivanka Trump appears to have double-dipped – serving as both a project manager in her official capacity as a senior staffer for her father’s company and as a “consultant” to those same projects.
2) In those deals, Ivanka Trump’s apparent categorization as a “consultant” allowed her father to write off three-quarters of a million dollars. (The IRS allows “consulting fees” to be written off as business expenses.)
Which is, well, pretty bad. (The Trump Organization’s lawyer offered no comment or explanation for the setup to the Times.)
But it appears as though the Times may only have found the tip of the iceberg here.
Why? Because of the $26 million that Trump wrote off as “consulting fees” between 2010 and 2018, none is allocated to any specific person or entity. (The Times figured out the $747,622 payment by matching an amount paid in Trump’s tax returns to the same sum reported by Ivanka Trump on her financial disclosure forms filed when she went to work in the White House in 2017.)
So we don’t know who received the other $25-ish million that Trump wrote off to “consulting fees” during that time. (Worth noting: The Times reports that Trump wrote off roughly 20% of all income he made on projects over that time to “consulting fees.”)
Given the apparent payment to Ivanka Trump revealed by the Times, however, it’s not terribly far-fetched to wonder whether all (or much) of those “consulting fees” went through a similar process: Paid to one of Trump’s offspring who were serving as both managers of these operations for the Trump Organization and as consultants to the projects as well.
When asked for comment, Ivanka Trump’s office directed CNN to the Trump campaign, whose spokesman Tim Murtaugh attacked the reporting as “bogus” but did not offer any explanation for the apparent payment.
As of this writing, Ivanka Trump hasn’t commented on the $750,000 she seems to have made in consulting fees on the hotel deals in Hawaii and Vancouver, though the story did break over the Yom Kippur holiday. She also hasn’t explained whether this was a practice that she and her father engaged in regularly when it came to business deals.
But she needs to.
CNN’s Kate Bennett contributed to this analysis.