US President Donald Trump engaged in “dubious tax schemes”, including cases of fraud in which he and his siblings helped their parents dodge taxes in the 1990s, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing more than 200 tax returns it obtained.
The White House responded to the report by calling it a “misleading attack” by the newspaper.
During his presidential campaign, Trump promoted himself as a self-made real estate mogul who started out with only a “very small” loan from his businessman father, Fred Trump.
But the New York Times reported much of that fortune came to Trump because he helped his parents evade taxes, including setting up a sham corporation with his siblings to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents.
The New York Times investigation, which a Trump lawyer said was “extremely inaccurate”, showed Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413m from his father’s real estate business, citing a “vast trove” of confidential tax return and financial records.
“[Donald Trump] also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings,” the newspaper reported, adding, “these manoeuvres [were] met with little resistance from the Internal Revenue Service.”
The New York Times said its findings were based on more than 200 tax returns from Fred Trump, his companies and various Trump partnerships and trusts. The records did not include Donald Trump’s personal tax returns.
Charles Harder, Trump’s lawyer, told the newspaper: “President Trump had virtually no involvement whatsoever with these matters.”
Harder added: “The affairs were handled by other Trump family members who were not experts themselves and, therefore, relied entirely upon the aforementioned licensed professionals to ensure full compliance with the law.”
The New York State Tax Department is looking into the allegations, CNBC reported, citing a spokesman for the department.
Citing tax experts, the New York Times reported it was unlikely Trump would face criminal prosecution because the acts were past the statute of limitations. There is no time limit, however, on civil fines for tax fraud.
Robert Trump, the president’s brother, told the newspaper in a statement “all appropriate gift and estate tax returns were filed, and the required taxes were paid”.
He added: “Our father’s estate was closed in 2001 by both the Internal Revenue Service and the New York State tax authorities.”
The newspaper said the story was based on interviews with Fred Trump’s former employees and advisers and more than 100,000 pages of documents describing the inner workings of his business empire.
“The investigation also draws on tens of thousands of pages of confidential records – bank statements, financial audits, accounting ledgers, cash disbursement reports, invoices and cancelled checks,” it said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders denounced the report in a statement.
“The New York Times and other media outlets’ credibility with the American people is at an all-time low because they are consumed with attacking the president and his family 24/7 instead of reporting the news,” Sanders said.