Trump Foundation admits to violating ban on ‘self-dealing,’ new filing to IRS shows – Washington Post

 In Business
President-elect Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has admitted to the IRS that it violated a legal prohibition against “self-dealing,” which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families.

That admission was contained in the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s IRS tax filings for 2015, which were recently posted online at the nonprofit-tracking site GuideStar. A GuideStar spokesman said the forms were uploaded by the Trump Foundation’s law firm, Morgan, Lewis and Bockius.

The Post could not immediately confirm if the same forms had actually been sent to the IRS.

In one section of the form, the IRS asked if the Trump Foundation had transferred “income or assets to a disqualified person.” A disqualified person, in this context, might be Trump — the foundation’s president — or a member of his family, or a Trump-owned business.

The foundation checked “yes.”

The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold explains how Donald Trump directed people who owed him money to make their payments to the tax-exempt Donald J. Trump Foundation instead. (Peter Stevenson,Lee Powell/The Washington Post)

Another line on the form asked if the Trump Foundation had engaged in any acts of self-dealing in prior years. The Trump Foundation checked “yes” again.

Such violations can carry penalties including excise taxes, and the charity leaders can be required to repay money that the charity spent on their behalf.

During the presidential campaign, The Washington Post reported on several instances in which Trump appeared to use the Trump Foundation’s money to buy items for himself or to help one of his for-profit businesses.

But the new Trump Foundation tax filings provided little detail so it was unclear if these admissions were connected to the instances reported in The Post.

The Trump Foundation tax forms did not, for instance, describe any specific acts of self-dealing. They also did not say whether Trump had paid any penalties already. That kind of detail would be submitted on a separate IRS form, which was not included in the information posted online Monday.

Spokesmen for Trump’s presidential campaign did not respond to a request for comment early Tuesday.

Washington Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold has been searching for evidence of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s charitable giving for months. (Peter Stevenson,Julio Negron/The Washington Post)

The New York attorney general’s office is investigating Trump’s charity, following up on reports in The Post that described apparent instances of self-dealing going back to 2007. A spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declined to comment, other than to say “our investigation is ongoing.”

The IRS also did not immediately respond. That agency has not said if it is investigating the president-elect’s charity.

The Trump Foundation has existed since 1987. This appeared to be the first time that it had admitted committing such a violation.

Philip Hackney, who formerly worked in the IRS chief counsel’s office and now teaches at Louisiana State University, said he wanted to know why the Trump Foundation was now admitting to self-dealing in prior years — when, in all prior years, it had told the IRS it had done nothing of the kind.

“What transactions led to the self-dealing that they’re admitting to? Why weren’t they able to recognize them in prior years,” Hackney said. He said that, since the prior years’ returns were signed by Trump, that opened the president-elect to questions about what he had missed and how.

During the presidential campaign, The Post revealed several instances — worth about $300,000 — where Trump seemed to have used the Trump Foundation to help himself.

In two cases, The Post reported, the Trump Foundation appeared to pay legal settlements to end lawsuits that involved his for-profit businesses.

In one case, Trump settled a dispute with the town of Palm Beach, Fla., over a large flagpole he erected at his Mar-a-Lago Club. The town agreed to waive $120,000 in unpaid fines if Trump’s club donated $100,000 to Fisher House, a charity helping wounded veterans and military personnel. The Trump Foundation paid that donation instead — effectively saving his business $100,000.

In another, Trump’s golf course in New York’s Westchester County was sued by a man who had won a $1 million hole-in-one prize during a tournament at the course. The man was later denied the money because Trump’s course had allegedly made the hole too short for the prize to be valid.

The lawsuit was settled, and details on that final settlement have not been made public. But on the day that the parties told the court that their lawsuit had been settled, the Trump Foundation donated $158,000 to the unhappy golfer’s charity. Trump’s golf course donated nothing.

In three other cases, Trump’s foundation paid for items that Trump or his wife purchased at charity auctions. In 2012, Trump bid $12,000 for a football helmet signed by then-Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

In another case, from 2007, Trump’s wife, Melania, bid $20,000 on a six-foot-tall portrait of Trump painted by “speed painter” Michael Israel during a gala at Mar-a-Lago. And in 2014, Trump bid $10,000 to buy a four-foot painting of himself by artist Havi Schanz at another charity gala.

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