Sunday, June 16, 2024

Donald Trump Gave Himself Tax Break for Helping Contest Winner


Donald Trump does say he’s worth more than $2.7 billion. On the most recent form 990 filing for his Donald Trump Foundation, the potential presidential candidate listed a $5,000 donation to a woman named Abby Feller among his over $900,000 worth of grants to institutions–not individuals. Her listing is nestled between “A Better Chance” and “Alzheimers Foundation.”

Noteworthy: Donald Trump didn’t donate any of his own money to the Donald Trump Foundation in 2009. One million dollars–$1,000,000–came from the World Wrestling Foundation. Another $50,000 was from the Charles Evans Foundation. And $4,000 came from something called Stark Carpet. This means that the $926,000 Trump gave away to Feller, as well as a bunch of big institutions, all of it came from other people. Not a penny of it was his.The only time he’s put money in the foundation was in 2008–and that was a mere $30,000.

Who is Abby Feller? She’s the 30 year old daughter of a prominent Philadelphia attorney, lives in New York, has a spray tanning business, and is engaged to a commercial real estate broker. In 2009 she  won a contest called “Donald Trump Will Pay Your Bills” on the syndicated program, “Extra.” When I asked Trump’s rep, Rhona Graff, why Feller’s prize money came from the Trump Foundation–which is for charitable, not marketing purposes–she replied by sending me legal wording about who can receive money from 501 c 3 organizations.

“… A grant to an individual for purposes other than those described in section 4945(d)(3) is not a taxable expenditure within the meaning of section 4945(d)(3). For example, if a foundation makes grants to indigent individuals to enable them to purchase furniture, such grants are not taxable expenditures within the meaning of section 4945(d)(3) even if the requirements of section 4945(g) are not met”

By Graff’s and Trump’s reasoning, the Foundation can send tax free money to individuals who are “indigent” for things like furniture. Feller tells me when she won the content with Trump she’d just moved to New York and had lost her job as a marketing director at BriteSmile. Was she “indigent”? Or just, technically, broke? Answer: broke. “Before the contest, I couldn’t afford to even get headshots,” she said. She’s also good at playing the “Extra” contests. Just a few months earlier, Feller had also won a $3,000 handbag on “Extra.”

One top notch accountant I spoke with, who handles lots of celebrity clients, laughed when I told him this story. “That’s marketing, not a donation. I wonder why he just didn’t write his own check and deduct it from his personal taxes?”


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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