Financial fraud charges against Trump
The IRS and Congress have been on the lookout for a tax-gaming strategy that former President Donald Trump is said to have used to collect millions of dollars in fictitious tax benefits.
However, efforts to stop it have made only sluggish progress.
In a lawsuit against Trump, his family, and his business conglomerate, New York Attorney General Letitia James accuses the former president of inflating land values artificially in order to receive greater tax advantages for keeping some of his properties’ land off-limits for development.
Conservationists welcome the donations, which are legally called “conservation easements” in tax jargon, and view them as a useful tool for maintaining open space for wildlife, protecting wetlands, and other objectives.
The IRS and lawmakers from both parties have been working to stop fraud, concentrating mostly on “syndicated” easement agreements when promoters, investors, and appraisers work together to benefit from the tax break.
James claims that Trump was not operating as part of a syndicate in this instance but rather on his own and his company’s behalf. However, the lawsuit is likely to bring attention to the larger issue of tax benefits for conservation easements.
According to Adam Looney, an economist at the Brookings Institution who has researched the matter, “there are various ways to abuse the conservation easement deduction, say, by exaggerating the valuation of the donation or breaking the easement’s restrictions.”
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