The New York Times reported Tuesday that President Donald Trump received at least $413 million from his father over the decades, much of that through dubious tax dodges, including outright fraud.
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 New York state tax department told The Associated Press that it is 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 says 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. Set up in 1992 ostensibly as a purchasing agent to supply Fred Trump’s buildings with boilers, cleaning supplies and other goods, the father would pad invoices with markups of 20 percent or even 50 percent, thereby avoiding gift taxes, the newspaper reports.
The Times says 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 says 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 Times tally. That should have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million, based on a 55 percent tax on gifts and inheritance at the time.
Instead, the children paid $52.2 million, or about 5 percent.
Tax experts cited in the report say that Trump is unlikely to face criminal prosecution in helping his parents evade taxes because the maneuvers occurred long ago and are 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 says 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.”