You see, Trump is doing his foundation a favor!
Trump bought the painting at a charity auction in 2014, with a winning bid of $10,000. Later, he paid with a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation — a small charity, whose tax records show no personal donations from Trump himself since 2008.
By law, tax experts said, the portrait then belonged to the Trump Foundation, and Trump was required to find a charitable use for it. If he did not, Trump risked violating laws against “self-dealing,” which prohibit leaders of nonprofit groups from using their charities’ money to buy things for themselves or their businesses.
Epshteyn’s explanation was, in effect, that Trump hadn’t used his foundation to buy his resort some art. Instead, Trump’s resort was helping the foundation — which has no employees or office space of its own — find a place to store its possessions.
Tax experts were not impressed by this reasoning.
“It’s hard to make an IRS auditor laugh,” Brett Kappel, a lawyer who advises nonprofit groups at the Akerman firm, said in an email. “But this would do it.”
Experts said that the Internal Revenue Service had actually ruled on a similar issue in 1974, in a case where a major donor to a private foundation took paintings belonging to that foundation and hung them in his home. (The rules against “self-dealing” apply to both major donors and to foundation officers, like Trump.) The IRS determined that this was, indeed, self-dealing — because the homeowner was using the foundation’s assets to benefit himself.