Chicago 'Trying to Block $1 Million Refund' to Trump Amid Renewed Scrutiny Over His Tax Returns
© REUTERS / EDUARDO MUNOZFormer US President Donald Trump speaks to media at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, 7 July 2021
© REUTERS / EDUARDO MUNOZ
Donald Trump is owed $1 million in tax refunds on his Chicago skyscraper's 2011 tax bill, as the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board ruled in June 2021; however, the decision has been challenged by Cook County State’s attorney, according to a local news outlet.
Chicago officials are seeking to stop former President Donald Trump from getting a $1 million tax refund, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. On 3 June, the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board ruled in a 5-0 vote that the Cook County Board of Review had overestimated the value of the Trump International Hotel & Tower hotel rooms and retail space, paving the way for the $1 million refund for the ex-president.
However, a month later Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx filed a lawsuit with the Illinois Appellate Court seeking to block the refund, the Chicago daily points out. The media outlet notes that if Trump wins the case, the money would come out of taxes due to the city of Chicago and eight other government agencies, including Chicago Public Schools, which could lose about $540,000.
It remains unclear how the case will pan out for the former president because of a number of factors. First, the case was originally filed several years ago by former Trump ally Edward M. Burke, a powerful local Democrat, ex-cop and a Chicago 14th ward alderman since 1969.
The alderman's law firm Klafter & Burke used to represent Trump's interests and managed to win more than $14 million in tax breaks for the former president over a dozen years. However, in 2018, Burke ended the relationship with then-President Trump, citing "irreconcilable differences" between them over the latter's policies.
What’s more, in January 2019, Burke was indicted on charges of attempted extortion for allegedly using his position as alderman to try to steer business to his private law firm, according to the Chicago Tribune. The alderman, who pleaded not guilty, has left his law firm, but still remains on the City Council while awaiting trial.
On 26 July 2021, The Illinois Attorney General’s office intervened in the case on behalf of the appeal board, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The media outlet further notes that the Illinois Appellate Court's decision can be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. The fact that the state's Supreme Court is headed by Chief Justice Anne M. Burke, Alderman Burke's wife and a longtime Democrat, is apparently adding further intrigue to the case.
© REUTERS / ANDREW KELLYThe crest of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021.
The crest of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021.
© REUTERS / ANDREW KELLY
IRS Ordered to Release Trump's Tax Returns to Congress
The legal drama is unfolding as the US Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel said on 31 July that the IRS must release the income tax returns of the former president to the US Congress. The decision is a reversal of an opinion issued by the same office under Trump's presidency. In 2019, the DoJ had backed the IRS’ refusal to give the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee Trump's returns, arguing that the congressional panel was “disingenuous” about the true purpose of seeking the data.
The Democrats have repeatedly tried to obtain Donald Trump's returns since his election in 2016, when he refused to voluntarily release the information.
During Special Counsel Robert Mueller's "Trump-Russia" investigation, some left-leaning mainstream media and think tanks suggested that Trump's tax returns may show income from Russian sources or debt owed to Russians which could have made the president "vulnerable" to Moscow's "influence".
However, in October 2020, The New York Times' review of the president's "leaked" financial documents failed to uncover anything of that kind. While the media focused on Trump's alleged tax avoidance, it failed to make a splash. Instead, the report prompted concerns about a supposed felony committed while obtaining the sensitive data.
Following Joe Biden's win, the Democrats doubled down on getting Trump's tax returns. At the same time, the Department of Justice has indicted Trump Organisation's CFO Allen Weisselberg and Thomas J. Barrack, a billionaire businessman and longtime friend to the former president. Both pleaded not guilty.
The recent legal developments coincided with Trump's return to the political arena. The former president is holding rallies and making statements ahead of the 2022 midterm elections in the US. Furthermore, the 45th president has amassed over $100 million through his Political Action Committee (PAC) called Save America, another PAC called Make America Great Again and a joint fundraising committee that raised money for both, according to Just the News, which suggested that Trump may emerge as a "kingmaker" in the forthcoming political battle.