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Trump slams Times ‘hit piece’ on reported tax avoidance plan

NY Times says Trump and his father avoided gift and inheritance taxes by setting up a sham corporation and undervaluing assets to tax authorities.


NEW YORK—President Donald Trump on Wednesday expressed outrage over a New York Times report that he received at least US$413 million from his father over the decades, much of that through dubious tax dodges, including outright fraud.

Trump accused the newspaper of “doing a very old, boring and often told hit piece on me.” In a tweet, he said: “Added up, this means that 97% of their stories on me are bad. Never recovered from bad election call!”

The 15,000-word Times report contradicts Trump’s portrayal of himself as a self-made billionaire who started with just a $1 million loan from his father.

The Times says Trump and his father, Fred, avoided gift and inheritance taxes by setting up a sham corporation and undervaluing assets to tax authorities. The Times says its report is based on more than 100,000 pages of financial documents, including confidential tax returns from the father and his companies.

A lawyer for Trump, Charles J. Harder, told The Times that there was no “fraud or tax evasion” and that the facts cited in the report are “extremely inaccurate.”

The White House dismissed the report as a “misleading attack against the Trump family by the failing New York Times.” It criticized the newspaper and other media outlets, saying their low credibility with the public is “because they are consumed with attacking the president and his family 24/7 instead of reporting the news.”

The New York state tax department told The Associated Press that it was reviewing the allegations in The Times and “is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation.” The department typically refers findings to the state attorney general’s office.

The Times said the Trump family hid millions of dollars of transfers from the father to his children through a sham company owned by the children called All County Building Supply & Maintenance. It was set up in 1992 ostensibly as a purchasing agent to supply Fred Trump’s buildings with boilers, cleaning supplies and other goods, and the father would pad invoices with markups of 20 per cent or even 50 per cent, thereby avoiding gift taxes, the newspaper reported.

The report said that before Fred Trump died in the late 1990s, he transferred ownership of most of his real estate empire to his four living children. The value of the properties in tax returns summed up to $41.4 million, vastly less than The Times said they were worth.

The same properties would be sold off over the next decade for more than 16 times that amount.

In total, the president’s father and mother transferred over $1 billion to their children, according to the newspaper’s tally. That should have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million, based on a 55 per cent tax on gifts and inheritance at the time.

Instead, the children paid $52.2 million, or about 5 per cent.

Tax experts cited in the report say that Trump was unlikely to face criminal prosecution in helping his parents evade taxes because the manoeuvrs occurred long ago and were past the statute of limitation.

The president’s brother Robert Trump said that “all appropriate gift and estate tax returns” were filed. “Our family has no other comment on these matters that happened some 20 years ago,” he said in a statement to The Times, “and would appreciate your respecting the privacy of our deceased parents, may God rest their souls.”

The Times report said documents it reviewed show that the future president was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars at the age of 3. By the time Trump had graduated from college, the report says, he was getting the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father.

When he was campaigning, Trump repeatedly boasted of his ability to turn a small loan from his father into his fortune. “My father gave me a very small loan in 1975,” he said, “and I built it into a company that’s worth many, many billions of dollars.”

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