For Trump's Rich Appointees, Death May Be Certain but Taxes Aren't

Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, on January 19, 2017. (Photo: Al Drago / The New York Times) Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, on January 19, 2017. (Photo: Al Drago / The New York Times)

There are times when two seemingly unrelated tax policies intersect to create windfalls for fortunate people who are in the right place at the right time.

That is likely to be the case when it comes to calculating the tax benefits that will go to the billionaires and other very rich people joining the Trump administration. Among those who stand to benefit but haven’t been identified until now is Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, even though he’s not taking a formal government job.

No, this isn’t going to be another screed on the tax code provision that provides a temporary tax break to high-net-worth people who take government positions and have to dispose of some of their holdings to avoid conflicts.

Rather, we want to show you how combining this tax break with repeal of the estate tax — a cherished Republican goal that could be achieved this year – can turn a temporary tax benefit into permanent tax avoidance, enriching the appointees and their heirs.

We’re dealing with substantial money here: at a minimum, tens of millions of deferred capital gains taxes; at a maximum, hundreds of millions. We can’t tell until we analyze filings that appointees haven’t yet made with the Office of Government Ethics. One wild card is their holdings outside of the publicly traded companies with which some of them are associated, because we don’t know what they would have to sell, how much of a gain they would have and how much in capital gains taxes they could defer. Rex Tillerson, for example, owns $28 million to $100 million in land and securities other than ExxonMobil, according to a Dec. 31 report he filed with the ethics office that listed more than 400 holdings.

Other very-well-off Trump appointees whose pending jobs will almost surely make…

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