Hollywood actors are using tax breaks to play important roles in US politics, a report has found.
The Hollywood Reporter published a report that looked at the roles of celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Bradley Cooper in US elections, and found the vast majority of the roles are being done through tax loopholes.
“The most important roles are those in which actors, actors’ assistants and assistants are employed in connection with a specific campaign,” the report said.
“By way of example, Pitt and Jolie, for example, are not only used as a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, they also serve as campaign managers for the Democrat Party, and, as such, have access in their capacity as campaign aides to a number of campaign finance laws.”
It said the tax break enjoyed by these actors is a direct result of the Obama administration’s 2015 legislation that expanded the use of tax-exempt US charities as campaign entities, making it easier for them to participate in the political process.
“This bill was the first step in a process that ultimately led to the Obama Administration’s controversial 2014 decision to extend the tax-exemption of American charities to political parties,” the researchers said.
The US is home to the largest number of charities, including USO, a charity for veterans, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and other organisations, and a number that can be used to campaign for candidates, the report found.
However, the authors said there was a huge loophole that made the loophole so big that, even though they are “advocating for candidates or causes”, the USO itself would not be able to contribute to any campaign or political campaign.
“There are, for instance, charities that have no connection whatsoever with a candidate or cause, yet are used to advocate for candidates that would be eligible for the exemption, but the charities are not allowed to participate directly in that election,” the authors of the report, Matthew Miller and Kevin Siegel, wrote.
“So, for every campaign they run, these charities are required to do so as a conduit for the campaign itself.”
The authors wrote that the loophole is “not only the most egregious of its kind” in the US, but also “far more egregious” than what existed under the Clinton and Bush administrations, which allowed charities to contribute directly to presidential campaigns.
The report said that, in the 2016 election, the average amount of money given to politicians from the charity sector was around $7,000, while the average contribution by a politician to the US Oceans Initiative was $8,000.
The study also said that the tax exemption allowed charities that contribute to USO to contribute $100,000 to the campaigns of candidates, but that it was unclear if any of the charities that received this kind of funding were able to do anything to influence elections.
The authors said that it is unclear whether the tax breaks are in place in the “direct” or indirect ways.
The exemption for charities is not a direct payment to candidates, nor is it a payment to US Oceana, the charity that is running the campaigns, they said.
Rather, the exemption allows for a deduction for donations to USOs charities from a donor’s federal tax returns, so the charity could claim the donation as income for tax purposes.
However there is no guarantee that the money raised will actually go to campaigns, the study said.
As a result, charities can also take advantage of tax breaks for fundraising activities, but there is “no indication that the contributions are being used to further any political campaign or influence the election outcome”.
The authors noted that, while it was possible for the charities to have made a contribution, it was also “highly unlikely” that they would have benefited from the tax loopholes because the exemption would have been applied to the amount of funds raised.
However the authors warned that “if they did, it could be used for further political activities that are illegal under the tax laws” and that the US could “further restrict” charities’ access to the tax exemptions.
“It is unclear to what extent the IRS has considered the impact of the loopholes on the activities of USO and USO-related charities in the past,” the study concluded.
“Additionally, the IRS appears to be considering the impact that such loopholes may have on future political contributions.”
The study came as the White House announced a series of changes to the election law to make it easier to spend campaign money.US President Donald Trump signed a bill that included a provision that would allow donors to give unlimited amounts of money to political candidates and causes, and it will likely be passed on to Congress in coming days.
The new changes are expected to make fundraising easier, but they will also be designed to make the process of running for office more difficult.