Philip Hackney, a former attorney to the chief counsel of the Internal Revenue Service who specialized in nonprofit organizations, is urging the agency to open an investigation into President Trump’s personal foundation over blatant tax evasion.
In an op-ed for The New York Times, Hackney argued that Trump could be prosecuted for evading taxes on his “self-dealing” payments, as well as for making false statements on tax filings.
Trump is “criminally liable for his actions,” Hackney wrote.
Hackney’s op-ed comes after the New York attorney general filed a lawsuit against Trump and his children for violations of state and federal law. The lawsuit charged that Trump has employed the foundation for questionable uses including to making payments on lawsuits against his golf clubs.
“If I were still at the I.R.S., based on the lawsuit, I would make a criminal referral, on charges of tax evasion or false statements on a tax return, or both,” Hackney wrote.
“The government could anchor a tax evasion and false statement case upon the multiple instances of self-dealing, as cataloged by the New York attorney general, between Mr. Trump and the foundation,” Hackney continued. “The attorney general details occasions when Mr. Trump directed the foundation to acquire expensive things like paintings of himself for himself.”
“Each of these self-dealing transactions probably subjected Mr. Trump to a 10 percent tax applied to the value of the transaction. In addition, he may owe other excise taxes and penalties,” he wrote.
IRS prosecutions, Hackney continued, are reserved for repeat offenders who show brazen disregard for laws against charitable self-dealing.
“I do not believe these violations are within the norm of mistaken or accidental use,” he wrote of Trump’s activities. “It represents a continued willingness to violate basic charitable norms.”
In particular, Hackney pointed to the Trump Foundation’s $25,000 donation to the re-election campaign of Pam Bondi, the Republican attorney general of Florida, as one instance of improper contributions made by the Foundation for which it later apologized.
“He may see it as a petty violation, but it is an enormous breach for the broader community,” Hackney argued. “The I.R.S. owes it to the public to investigate such egregious acts for criminal violations.”