For four years, Donald Trump’s tax returns have been the white whale of political journalists and the most sought-after material of any presidency this side of Richard Nixon’s Watergate tapes. Naturally, when The New York Times obtained and published the trove, it was an epochal moment for the media and a major headache for Trump himself. The material the president said he couldn’t and wouldn’t release was suddenly out in the world, and it was immediately clear why he’d endeavored to conceal the goods: This self-described billionaire paid a total of $750 in federal income taxes the year he entered the White House—and none at all in 10 of the 15 years beforehand. The documents revealed that Trump was facing a possible $100 million tax penalty, on top of personal liability to the tune of $400 million in loans and debts.
But buried in the details, tucked between the revelations of foreign financing and piling losses, stood another reason Trump worried about the returns leaking into the public arena. The tax returns pointed to a curious, and potentially criminal, bit of accounting sleight of hand that roped in what matters most to Trump: Ivanka.
Per the Times, Trump’s filings showed that some of the millions of dollars in consulting fees listed just happened to line up with filings attached to his daughter’s own financial disclosures. Ivanka, who remains a special adviser to her father, “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.” With the filings and funds bouncing between the Trump Organization and a Delaware LLC and straight into Ivanka’s pockets, Trump appears to have “reduced his taxable income by treating a family member as a consultant, and then deducting the fee as a cost of doing business.”
Or put another way: Trump appears to have spun Ivanka, a lieutenant in his paper empire, as a mere consultant as a means of gutting his taxable income. Suffice it to say, the maneuver is not simply highly unethical but likely illegal. In years past, the IRS has pursued civil penalties against others for devising just such schemes. Nor would Trump likely be the only party liable. After all, tax fraud schemes like this always require witting partners on both ends of the payment. And what better partner in a scam to defraud the IRS—and, by extension, the American taxpayer—than a daughter who appears eager to follow in her crooked father’s footsteps?
If you peer past the gilded, airbrushed image Ivanka has spent years cultivating, it’s not difficult to discern just how much of her father’s essence oozes through her own business practices. Rather than the manicured professional and golden American princess she professes to be, Ivanka has a track record that illustrates just how willingly she’s imbibed her father’s fetish for fraud.