By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use.

After the Plaintiff Double Tax E. Jean Carroll May Find Herself Shopping at Walmart

A post-it note with Double Taxation printed on it sitting on a stack of papers


As you may know, E. Jean Carroll was recently awarded $83.3 million in her defamation case against former President Donald J. Trump. After the case, Ms. Carroll quipped to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC: “I have such great ideas for all the good I’m going to do with this money,” “First thing, Rachel, you and I are going to go shopping.” “We’re going to get completely new wardrobes, new shoes, motorcycle for Crowley, new fishing rod for Robbie. Rachel, what do you want, a penthouse?” She also said that “We’re going to do something good with it.” 

Unfortunately, because of the tax laws, particularly the “plaintiff double tax”, Ms. Carroll may need to limit where she shops to have any money left to do good. 

Double Tax Details

The plaintiff double tax applies to many types of nonbusiness litigation cases, including those involving no physical injuries – such as defamation - and punitive damages. In those cases, the entire award is taxable income (not just the net after attorney fees). Furthermore, the related attorney fees cannot be deducted on Ms. Carroll’s 1040. Having to pay taxes on an award where you cannot deduct the related attorney fee expense is the plaintiff’s double tax. 

The jurors awarded Ms. Carroll $7.3 million in compensatory damages for emotional harm, $11 million in compensatory damages for harm to her reputation, and $65 million in punitive damages. All of these amounts are taxable and subject to the plaintiff’s double tax. 

Assuming Ms. Carroll lives in New York City, her combined Federal/State/Local income tax rate on this award would be about 51%. Thus, if her attorney is owed the industry standard 40% contingency rate, then of Ms. Carroll’s $83.3 million award, she’d end up with only $7.5 million – just nine (9) cents on the dollar! That does not leave much for shopping or doing good, especially in NYC.

The same taxation applies if her award is reduced on appeal. Say she receives $20 million after appeals or a settlement. Due to the plaintiff's double tax, she’ll end up with about $2 million, or ten (10) cents on the dollar. (Don’t buy that NYC penthouse yet.) 

Mr. Trump has indicated that he will appeal, so the case is not final. This gives Ms. Carroll time to do some planning to reduce the taxes on any award she does ultimately receive.

It may be wise for Ms. Carroll to consider a technique known as the Plaintiff Recovery Trust (PRT). A PRT is a specially designed trust that could more than triple her after-tax recovery. For Ms. Carroll (and you) to learn more about PRTs, see our overview on the Plaintiff Recovery Trust.

Disclosure: This content is an overview. It is not a detailed analysis and offers no legal or tax opinion on which you should solely rely. Always seek the advice of competent legal and tax advisors to review your specific facts and circumstances before making any decisions or relying on the content herein.
Any opinions, views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Eastern Point Trust Company, its Affiliates, or their clients. The mere appearance of content does not constitute an endorsement by Eastern Point Trust Company (“EPTC”) or its Affiliates. The author’s opinions are based upon information they consider reliable, but neither EPTC nor its Affiliates, nor the company with which such author(s) are affiliated, warrant completeness, accuracy or disclosure of opposing interpretations.

EPTC and its Affiliates disclaim all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, special, incidental, or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the content herein, which is expressly provided as is, without warranties.
Article Archive

Get More Information

Your submission has been received.
A member of our team will be in touch with you soon.
Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Please see our Contact Us page for more options to connect with us.