John Oliver has Donald Trump to thank for reportedly lowering his tax bill on a $9.5 million penthouse apartment in New York City’s Upper West Side upscale enclave.
The progressive host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight is a strident critic of President Trump and his policies and also is a foe of income inequality and the wealth gap. He is currently leading a crusade against the FCC’s plan under new chair Ajit Pai to phase out the net neutrality rules enacted by the prior administration. The Washingon Free Beacon claimed earlier this week that the Oliver-inspired net neutrality activism “is is full of bot accounts, fake comments, and death threats against the chairman.”
According to a report published by the Observer, Oliver hired a savvy lawyer in a prestigious firm that caters to wealthy clients to set up a shell corporation named after his dog to purchase the 39th-floor penthouse in a luxury Manhattan building in 2014. The names of Oliver or his wife apparently do not appear on any mortgage documents or land records
Heat Street claims that the building in question was ironically owned by Trump until he sold it in 2005.
Under ordinary circumstances, John Oliver would have reportedly owed the tax man about $66,000 last year, but he wound up paying only $27,000, equal to a tax rate of approximately 0.25 percent. (For whatever reason, New York City property tax authorities only assessed his crib at $1.3 million, and only $515,000 was billable for property tax purposes, which is a separate issue.)
The loophole in question which John Oliver allegedly took advantage of is called the 421-a exemption. The tax break expired in 2016, but the state legislature is considering bringing it back.
Although Congress has yet to implement Trump’s tax cut for America, John Oliver has allegedly already benefitted from Trump’s intervention.
Initially denied the exemption for the Trump Tower, which was built on the site of the demolished Bonwit Teller retail store, the future President Trump sued the city back in the day and won, thereby obtaining a $50 million tax exemption for the iconic building that received even more notoriety during the presidential transition.
Trump’s lawsuit established a precedent for rich New Yorkers that “all new development, even luxury projects, would be automatically eligible for the 421-a exemption…property tax records show that, thanks to Trump and [his attorney] Roy Cohn, Oliver gets the very generous 421-a tax break on the penthouse,” the Observer explained.
If the Observer account is valid, then John Oliver could be opening himself up to charges of hypocrisy and/or being what is often derisively described by the right as a limousine liberal (also known as a champagne socialist in the U.K.), or someone using his wealth and connections to insulate himself from the policies that he advocates for everyone else.
“Ripping on the wealthy is a growth industry, and John Oliver has made a tidy fortune by complaining about the one percent while simultaneously joining their ranks,” the Canada Free Press noted.
“In other words, [the Olivers’ lawyer] is exactly the type of fancy pants attorney who helps his 1 percent clientele get the tax breaks and use the loopholes that Oliver gets such mileage deriding on TV,” the Observer added.
Writing in the New York Daily News, two state lawmakers, who represent NYC districts and who oppose restoring the tax abatement, indicated that the 421-a exemption costs “$1.3 billion this year alone in foregone property taxes…Even as the city added requirements to include affordable housing in some buildings receiving 421-a, at its core it remained a subsidy for luxury developers.”
Oliver has yet to issue a statement in response to the Observer report about his penthouse tax situation. Watch this space for updates on the John Oliver alleged penthouse tax loophole.
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