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Did GOP Sneak Tax Provision into Stimulus Bill That Could Save Trump, Kushner Millions?

The Senate unanimously approved a $2 trillion emergency economic relief bill on Wednesday in an attempt to halt the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill will provide checks to more than 150 million American households and low-interest loans to big and small businesses to partially offset the economic losses resulting from several weeks of economic stagnancy. While Democrats were adamant the legislation include a clause explicitly preventing President Trump and his family from directly accessing stimulus funds for their private businesses, Republicans were able to insert an “easily overlooked” tax provision specifically aimed at saving real estate moguls like President Donald Trump millions, according to a New York Times report.

The Times’s Jesse Drucker reported Thursday that a stipulation, buried on page 203 of the 880-page bill, allowed real estate investors to use theoretical depreciation losses (even where the real world value of a property increases) to offset their tax burden on profits derived from their other investments.

“Under the existing tax code, when real estate investors generate losses from gradually writing down the value of their properties, a process known as depreciation, they can use some of those losses to offset other taxes,” Drucker wrote. “The result is that people can enjoy big tax breaks stemming from only-on-paper losses, even if they enjoy big cash profits in the real world.”

Under the Trump administration’s 2017 tax overhaul, the annual “loss” that could be used to offset other tax burdens was $500,000, while losses over that threshold could be carried over to future years. But not anymore:

The new stimulus bill lifts that restriction for three years — this year, and two retroactive years — a boon for couples with more than $500,000 in annual capital gains or income from sources other than their business. That group comprises the top 1 percent of taxpayers, according to Internal Revenue Service data.

The report noted that a congressional analysis this week found that lifting the restriction would cost approximately $170 billion over 10 years – the second largest tax giveaway in the entire $2 trillion bill.

Lifting the restriction wouldn’t just benefit the president. His son-in-law Jared Kushner is also poised to save big on his next tax bill. Kushner is already intimately familiar with the process of depreciating real estate’s value on paper to offset other tax burdens, as evinced by an earlier Times report showing he likely used the method to avoid paying income taxes for several years despite earning millions.

But some tax law experts did not agree with Drucker’s reporting on this or other tax-related matters.

[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.