As the Times notes, the lifted restriction could be a “potential bonanza” for these one-percenters, and marks the second-biggest tax provision in the entire stimulus package. “It’s a pretty big deal,” Peter Buell, who runs tax services for accounting firm Marcum’s real estate practice, told the Times. All told, the move could result in $170 billion in tax breaks for real estate investors—which, surprise surprise, just so happens to include Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. The Times previously reported that both Trump and Kushner had seemingly been taking advantage of the pre-2017 tax law to avoid paying federal income taxes, using real estate losses and depreciation to their benefit just as the new stimulus bill now re-allows. Tax accountants who analyzed Kushner’s returns told the Times in 2018 that Kushner had used depreciation to “[pay] little or no federal income taxes during at least five of the past eight years,” while Trump’s 1995 tax return included a $916 million loss that likely allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for at least 18 years. While those tax breaks should have been curbed under the Trump administration’s own tax bill, the new economic stimulus package means the president and his son-in-law can now keep their wealth to themselves and away from the federal government once again.
Despite the specific provisions designed to keep Trump from using the bill to benefit his company, the legislation could also stand to help the Trump Organization and Kushner even beyond the tax breaks. The Times notes that the real estate companies run by Kushner’s family likely won’t be bound by the same restrictions that the Trump Organization is, despite the First Son-in-Law’s governmental role. The government officials restriction singles out companies controlled by “the spouse, child, son-in-law or daughter-in-law” of elected officials and department heads, but only applies if the family member in question owns at least 20% of the company—which, sources cited by the Times assert, is more than Kushner’s stake in his family’s properties. And while the restriction on governmental leaders’ businesses prevents the Trump Organization from receiving assistance through a $500 billion fund set up through the Treasury Department, the president’s company could still likely take advantage of other provisions aimed at the hotel and restaurant industries. Trump himself has deflected questions about whether he could personally benefit from the bill, saying Sunday, “I just don’t know what the government assistance would be for what I have. I have hotels.”
The Senate bill is overwhelmingly likely to be enacted in its current form, as the House is expected to speedily pass the legislation Friday and Trump has signaled his intention to sign it into law. Despite all of its expensive provisions, however, the $2 trillion plan still won’t go far enough to combat the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus outbreak, especially with no clear timeline yet of when the country will be able to get back to normal. “No economic policy could fully end the hardship so long as public health requires that we put so much of our nation’s commerce on ice,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday. Economists cited by Politico say the economic stimulus, which marked the third phase of the government response to the coronavirus outbreak, will likely need to be followed by at least a fourth phase of relief, if not more after that, as the pandemic’s still-uncertain future plays out. “The Federal Reserve and Congress are helping avert for now a massive self-feeding economic and financial decline that threatens a devastating combination of a 1930s-like depression and a 2008-like global financial crisis. That’s the good news,” Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief economic advisor at Allianz, told Politico. “There will definitely be a need for a phase four.” Whether Congress’s next moves to save the economy will also stand to line the president’s pockets, however, remains to be seen.
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