'Financial knucklehead' Trump owes the public six key answers on his tax schemes: columnist
President Donald Trump speaking to reporters outside the White House (screengrab)

On Monday, writing for The Daily Beast, columnist Martin Sheil outlined six of the critical questions raised by the New York Times bombshell report about President Donald Trump's tax returns.

"The financial predicament that the Times outlines in regard to financial knucklehead Trump is only one of many questions that require some serious answers as the presidential election nears," wrote Sheil.

For one thing, wrote Sheil, is there tax fraud or bank fraud hidden in these documents? And will the Manhattan DA's investigation, which is also seeking these tax returns, be affected by the new information? "Proving criminal tax fraud requires documenting overt actions on the part of the tax fraudster, for example maintaining a double or triple set of books, setting up a phony shell company to act as a conduit for corrupt payments, or participating in a fictitious invoice scheme to disguise personal expenses as valid business deductions. There’s no proof of any of that yet, although we do have Michael Cohen’s comment that Trump kept two sets of books."

For another thing, he wrote, what is the importance of Trump trying to block the subpoenas of his financial records from Mazars? "Mazars likely possesses documentation of Trump directives and communications relative to how he wanted his tax returns and financial statements prepared. The accountant’s work files are traditionally a treasure trove of evidence of intent (mens rea, in the argot) with regard to the client taxpayer. It is worth noting that the accountant’s work files were devastating when introduced into evidence during the Paul Manafort criminal tax trial."

Additionally, will Trump be undone by his boasts about how he uses depreciation of his assets to reduce his tax burden? "The assets being depreciated on annual tax returns are the same assets being used by Trump in loan applications to banks for the purpose of obtaining more financing to procure such assets as golf courses, commercial real estate, and prospective NFL teams. Has Trump maintained consistency with regard to reporting the same cost 'basis' of each of these assets on his loan applications as reflected on his tax return depreciation schedules? How about on his applications for insurance coverage? What about with regard to his property tax declarations? Surely Trump wouldn’t take any short cuts on property taxes, which go to fund our first responders!"

Another question, wrote Sheil, is how all of this will affect the House's investigation into the president's finances. "Given the many questions surrounding the colossal refund that Trump received emanating from an audit and the wrangling over whether Trump will be liable to repay this refund to the tune of $100 million, Ways and Means — which has oversight responsibility of the annual presidential audit — seems more than justified in pursuit of its IRS subpoena in light of the NYT report."

And finally, there is the issue of whether Trump's liabilities make him vulnerable to manipulation by foreign powers and other actors contrary to U.S. interests.

"When we avoid paying our just taxes, the society we get is the one we deserve," concluded Sheil. "Paying one's fair share of taxes isn’t just for the 'little people,' Mr. Trump. You will soon find that out."

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