Paul L. Caron
Dean


Friday, May 15, 2020

Meet the Shadowy Accountants Who Do Trump’s Taxes And Help Him Seem Richer Than He Is

ProPublica, Meet the Shadowy Accountants Who Do Trump’s Taxes and Help Him Seem Richer Than He Is:

Pro PublicaOn May 12, after a six-week delay caused by the pandemic, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the epic battle by congressional committees and New York prosecutors to pry loose eight years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Much about the case is without precedent. Oral arguments will be publicly broadcast on live audio. The nine justices and opposing lawyers will debate the issues remotely, from their offices and homes. And the central question is extraordinary: Is the president of the United States immune from congressional — and even criminal — investigation?

Next week’s arguments concern whether Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, must hand over his tax returns and other records to a House committee and the Manhattan district attorney, which have separately subpoenaed them. (There will also be arguments on congressional subpoenas to two of Trump’s banks.) Trump, who promised while running for president to make his tax returns public, has sued to block the documents’ release. The questions apply beyond this case. Trump has repeatedly resisted congressional scrutiny, most recently by vowing to ignore oversight requirements included in the trillion-dollar pandemic-bailout legislation. “I’ll be the oversight,” he declared.

The president’s accounting firm has found itself at the center of this high-stakes fight. The American arm of a global firm, Mazars has portrayed itself as an innocent bystander in the war between Trump and his pursuers, dragged into the conflict merely for possessing the trove of subpoenaed records. It’s the firm’s first burst into the media glare apart from an unfortunate moment of tabloid coverage in 2016 after one of its New York partners stabbed his wife to death in the shower of their suburban home. (He pleaded guilty to manslaughter.) Mazars has said it will abide by whatever decision the court makes in the Trump matter.

But Trump’s accountants are far from bystanders in the matters under scrutiny — or in the rise of Trump. Over a span of decades, they have played two critical, but discordant, roles for Trump. One is common for an accounting firm: to help him pay the smallest amount of taxes possible. The second is not common at all: to help him appear to the world to be rich beyond imagining. That sometimes requires creating precisely the opposite impression of what’s in his tax filings.

Time and again, from press interviews in the 1980s to the launch of his 2016 campaign, Trump has trotted out evermore outsized claims of his wealth, frequently brandishing papers prepared by members of his accounting team, who have sometimes been called on to appear in person when they were presented, offering a sort of mute testimony in support of the findings. The accountants’ written disclaimers — that the calculations rely on Trump’s own numbers, rendering them essentially meaningless — are rarely mentioned.

Trump’s accountants have been crucial enablers in his remarkable rise. And like their marquee client, they have a surprisingly colorful and tangled story of their own. It’s dramatically at odds with the image Trump has presented of his accountants as “one of the most highly respected” big firms, solemnly confirming his numbers after months of careful scrutiny. For starters, it’s only technically true to say Trump’s accounting work is handled by a large firm.

In fact, Trump entrusts his taxes and planning to a tiny, secretive team of CPAs who have operated at various times from humble quarters in Queens and two Long Island office parks. That team, which has had two leaders with back-to-back multidecade terms, has been working for the Trumps since Fred Trump began using the firm back in the 1950s. It was eventually subsumed into Mazars USA, the American arm of a large international firm, through a series of mergers over decades.

One theme has been consistent: partners and sometimes the firm itself have faced accusations of fraud, misconduct and malpractice on multiple occasions, an investigation by ProPublica and WNYC has found.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2020/05/meet-the-shadowy-accountants-who-do-trumps-taxes-and-help-him-seem-richer-than-he-is.html

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Comments

Unfortunately there are dozens and dozens of "shadowy accountants" who do other people's taxes for the first reason cited: to help them pay as little in taxes as possible. If tax avoidance isn't enough to do the trick, it's on to tax evasion.

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | May 15, 2020 8:22:41 AM

That's a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. Who his accountants are and what they have done are both totally irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Posted by: mrsizer | May 15, 2020 10:39:44 AM

"If tax avoidance isn't enough to do the trick, it's on to tax evasion."

The President's tax returns are subject to mandatory audit every year. If you're suggesting a crime has been occuring, please tell us how you know that.

Posted by: MM | May 16, 2020 7:03:50 PM

MM: See this article. Trump was tried twice for tax evasion and lost both cases.
https://www.google.com/search?q=david+cay+johnson+%26+Trump+%26+tax+evasion&rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS848US848&oq=David&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j69i57j35i39j69i59j46j69i60l2j69i61.10631j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | May 17, 2020 3:04:06 PM

Gerald: That's not a link to an article, it's just a Google search you did. So, Strike #1 for sloppiness. I did my own search, better than yours, and the only references to Trump and tax evasion involve a man by the name of Orestes Fintiklis, majority owner of *former* Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama. He's claimed, but not proven, tax evasion, but litigation is currently pending. That's Strike #2. And lastly, you didn't answer my question, regarding President Trump undergoing mandatory audits of his personal taxes by the IRS every year. That's Strike #3, and you're out.

Don't give up your day job...

Posted by: MM | May 18, 2020 8:12:10 PM

MM: And this: "Trump Engaged on Suspect Tax Schemes..."
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/02/us/politics/donald-trump-tax-schemes-fred-trump.html

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | May 19, 2020 4:39:10 PM

"And this"

Now you trot out an article from Old Lady Gray, who no longer does straight reporting it seems, implying but not actually proving, that Trump may have committed tax evasion... in the 1990s.

My question to you remains unanswered, so I'll state it again, simply and to the point:

"The President's tax returns are subject to mandatory audit every year. If you're suggesting a crime has been occuring, please tell us how you know that."

If you can't put up, perhaps consider the alternative. Because you're not acting like a mature, thinking adult when a simple request has been made for you to qualify your opinion with actual facts.

Posted by: MM | May 20, 2020 6:25:11 PM

P.S. Gerald,

If you have to go back farther than 6 to 10 years, which is the statute of limitations for federal tax evasion, you've willfully avoided my question about the President.

But even if you do go back farther than that, please point me to a single IRS decision, anywhere, going back decades, that Mr. Trump engaged in tax evasion, which is a crime.

I'll wait...

Posted by: MM | May 20, 2020 6:43:57 PM

Here's everything you continue to deny, including his two convictions for tax fraud.
https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/03/12/david_cay_johnston_we_will_see_trumps_tax_returns_and_find_out_how_much_money_he_got_from_kremlin.html

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | May 21, 2020 7:32:16 AM

Soros front group claims orange man bad. And this a story because...

Posted by: Anthony E. Parent, Esq. | May 21, 2020 11:26:12 AM

Gerald "Here's everything you continue to deny."

For the record, my comments have been limited to asking questions specifically about your contention that either President Trump, or businessman Trump, has engaged in "tax evasion", which is a federal crime. You must think people are stupid or can't read, as I haven't denied anything.

You, on the other hand, have shifted your accusations, haphazardled linked to irrelevant articles, and just plain avoided the issue of tax evasion, which YOU originally made.

And now you cite a clip from a known Trump critic and Russia collusion conspiracy theorist who makes reference to two civil tax fraud cases.

Honest question: Why do you post here if you can't even qualify your own arguments with evidence?

P.S. Thank you for admitting that you're also a Russia collusion conspiracy theorist. That apple doesn't fall far from the Resistance Tree these days.

How embarrassing...

Posted by: MM | May 22, 2020 7:27:39 PM

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