Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Deadbeat Trump: New Jersey tax edition

It's good to have friends, especially if you are Donald Trump running Atlantic City casinos into the ground while not paying your taxes.
By the time Chris Christie became governor of New Jersey, the state’s auditors and lawyers had been battling for several years to collect long-overdue taxes owed by the casinos founded by his friend Donald J. Trump.
The total, with interest, had grown to almost $30 million. The state had doggedly pursued the matter through two of the casinos’ bankruptcy cases and even accused the company led by Mr. Trump of filing false reports with state casino regulators about the amount of taxes it had paid.
But the year after Governor Christie, a Republican, took office, the tone of the litigation shifted. The state entertained settlement offers. And in December 2011, after six years in court, the state agreed to accept just $5 million, roughly 17 cents on the dollar of what auditors said the casinos owed.
Tax authorities sometimes settle for lesser amounts to avoid the costs and risks of further litigation, legal experts said, but the steep discount granted to the Trump casinos and the relationship between the two men raise inevitable questions about special treatment.
“You can’t tell whether there’s something problematic, but it’s pretty striking that this one was written down so much,” said David Skeel, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School who specializes in bankruptcy law and reviewed the case at the request of The New York Times.
The refusal by Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, to release his personal income tax returns has become a growing issue in the campaign. He has also boasted of his success in lowering his tax burden as a businessman, declaring last year in an interview on Fox News that only “a stupid person, a really stupid person, is paying a lot of taxes.”
By that measure, the deal with New Jersey looks remarkably shrewd. The casinos did far better, for example, than those that benefited from a program Mr. Christie introduced in 2014 under which the state agreed to consider reducing penalties for delinquent taxpayers but only if they caught up on all overdue taxes and interest. [my bolding]
As I said, it's good to have friends, particularly when the friend is the governor of the state you are stiffing.
But wait! The governor was Chris Christie, whose policy it is not to know things his friends are doing.
Brian Murray, a spokesman for Mr. Christie, said the governor had not been aware of the tax dispute and, therefore, could not comment on the terms of the settlement.
The Trump casinos may not have been able to afford their long overdue taxes, but they did not turn suddenly spartan, either. They continued to rent a helicopter from Mr. Trump for $390,000 a year, until they filed for bankruptcy again in 2014.
Mr. Moore declined to release the titles of officials who approved the settlement, except to say it was agreed to by officials from both the attorney general’s office and the State Division of Taxation.
Mr. Christie was close to the attorney general at the time, Paula T. Dow, whom he had appointed and who worked for him as a prosecutor at the United States attorney’s office. A week after the settlement was signed, Mr. Christie announced that he was appointing Ms. Dow to the counsel’s office of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey until he could find her the judgeship that she desired.
As Aristotle did not say, it is good to have friends.

The Times discovered the agreement during a review of the thousands of documents filed in the bankruptcies of Mr. Trump’s casinos. The taxes went unpaid from 2002 through 2006, during which time Mr. Trump was leading the company as chairman and, until 2005, as its chief executive. He reaped millions of dollars in fees and bonuses from the company, even as it underperformed competitors, lost money every year and saw its stock collapse.

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