Trump Organization Indictment Opens a HUGE Can of Worms
The indictment against the Trump Organization and its Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg rests primarily on the failure to pay taxes on what has long been called “fringe benefits.”
The anti-Trump media is fast to say that the facts are clear. But maybe not so. They even claim that such fringe benefits are rare — and that recipients routinely pay taxes based on the value of the benefits when they are received. That is simply untrue on both counts. Fringe benefits are VERY common — and rarely do those who benefit pay taxes on them.
And it is almost impossible to find cases like this in which prosecutors seek CRIMINAL indictments. Where cases are prosecuted, they are usually civil matters — resulting in fines.
Many media pundits and guest media prosecutors conjectured that Trump is being singled out because he ran for President — and served as President. Guys like MSNBC’s Larry O’Donnell claim to have predicted that increased scrutiny would lead Trump into legal hot water. Of course, O’Donnell showed no evidence of his proclaimed prescience.
They proffer that argument as if it is appropriate — as if it is okay to single out one individual solely because of the person’s prominence, while overlooking literally billions of dollars in unpaid taxes by innumerable other Americans receiving fringe benefits.
Businesses routinely provide cars to employees. Housing is also a common perk. If you think not, consider this …
Based on the indictment against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization, I would suggest that prosecutors across the country start investigating those college and university presidents who are provided with luxurious on-campus mansions. I seriously doubt that they are paying taxes on the rental market value of those residences.
Various governments offer similar fringe benefits — such as cars and housing. Most states have a mansion as the official residence for their governors. They are also provided with cars, servants and, free meals every day for spouses and children. Are they paying the taxes on those freebies? Methinks not.
Has anyone checked New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s tax returns to see if he is paying taxes for the use of Gracie Mansion? I could be wrong, but I am betting … not. The rental value of that property could be several thousands of dollars every month. If it had a VERY conservative rental value of $3000 per month — or $36,000 per year — that comes to $288,000 for the eight years DeBlasio and his wife resided there.
And what about the soldiers who live on military bases and get their meals in the mess hall. How about all those ministers and priests who are provided free housing at the rectory — or nuns at a convent? I know that may sound a bit ridiculous, but hey … if no one is above the law …???
Millions of average working Americans get fringe benefits.
In the days I worked for Illinois Bell, I got a 20 percent discount on my phone bill. And they never even suggested that I pay taxes on that saving. Workers in retail outlets are often able to purchase goods at discount.
In my small consulting business, we routinely provided meals — including breakfast, lunch and dinner, depending on the hours of work on any given day. In a couple instances, we even provided housing.
But in the Weisselberg case, they claim that the benefits were part of his overall compensation — and therefore he should pay taxes on them. Fringe benefits are ALWAYS part of a person’s compensation. They are often negotiated.
There is one area, however, in which I do believe Weisselberg. And the Trump Organization may have exceeded legitimate fringe benefits — and that is paying the tuition of Weisselberg’ s grandchildren — but even that has a curious nuance.
The children in question are the offspring of Weisselberg’ s ex-daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg. If you have been following the news, you know that she is on a hate campaign against Weissleberg, the Trump Organization and Trump, himself. She appears regularly to accuse her ex-father-in-law and Trump of all manner of business misdeeds.
What is curious to me is why she has not been indicted for accepting the “gifts” without paying the taxes.
As the parent of the children, SHE has received the benefit by not having to cough up the money for tuition. It is usually the person receiving such a compensation who is required to pay the taxes. If her ex-father-in-law is a crook, so is she.
I was never prepared to be surprised if Trump or his company was charged with breaking the law. After all, he is a New York developer where the environment is both political and corrupt, to some measure. I honestly believe that if New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. had thrown a dart into a list of Big Apple developers and commenced an investigation, he would find crimes.
But so far, I think Vance is abusing prosecutorial discretion with the Trump Organization indictment. I could see some civil charges and a few fines — that is normally the way these things are resolved — but making it akin to a criminal offense in the courts and Class-A Capital Felony Offense in the court-of-public opinion is a bridge too far. That is what makes the whole thing smell political.
The Weisselberg/Trump Organization defense may shed the spotlight on all those receiving similar fringe benefits. That would be a can with a lot of worms.
So, there ’tis.