In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Can the Boss Pay for Personal Expenses With Company Money?

It's rarely a headline when a company president pays for some personal expenses with business money -- unless that happens to be Donald Trump, President of the United States.

Before he was elected, Trump raised $339 million in campaign money with about $66 million coming from his own resources. Since then, he reportedly has spent campaign and RNC funds on legal bills in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the election.

But is it news or politics at work? And when it comes to companies, what's wrong with paying for executives' personal business as usual?

Public v. Private

The U.S. Federal Election Commission allows private campaign funds for legal bills incurred by a candidate or elected official, but Trump would be the first in this era to use them for responding to a criminal probe. With campaign financing and public funds, the issues are complicated.

Even a judge can get caught in the cross-hairs of public scrutiny. An Alameda County judge was reprimanded for mishandling campaign finances, such as commingling campaign contributions and personal funds.

The public interest underlies such concerns. It also applies to publicly traded companies that must disclose expenditures for investors.

Private companies, maybe not as much.

Everybody Does It

Practically everybody uses business money to pay personal expenses in one way or another. Petty cash for pizza; company car on the weekend; restaurant on the business card; vacation as a business expense.

The Hartford says it may not seem significant -- especially when personal expenses are small in comparison to overall expenses. But it represents a bigger problem.

"Someone who willfully runs personal expenses through the company without any explanation, no justification, no reason, then officially categorizes themselves as a tax evader," Gene Marks wrote.

Of course, the buck stops when tax payers produce their tax returns. That, especially for Trump, is another story.

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