New York: Donald Trump helped his parents dodge millions of dollars in taxes and received far more money from his father's real estate empire than he has claimed in the past, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Trump "participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents," the newspaper said.
Trump has stated on numerous occasions that he received little help from his father, New York property developer Fred Trump, in building his fortune.
But the newspaper said its exhaustive investigation of a vast trove of tax returns and confidential records found this was not true.
It said Trump received the equivalent of USD 413 million in today's dollars from his father's real estate activities.
"By age 3, Trump was earning USD 200,000 a year in today's dollars from his father's empire," the Times said. "He was a millionaire by age 8.
"Soon after Trump graduated from college, he was receiving the equivalent of USD 1 million a year from his father," it said. "The money increased with the years, to more than USD 5 million annually in his 40s and 50s."
"Much of this money came to Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes," the Times said.
"He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents," it said.
Trump also "helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more," the newspaper added.
"He 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."
The Times said Trump's parents, Fred and Mary Trump, who died respectively in 1999 and 2000, transferred more than USD 1 billion in wealth to their five children.
This could have produced a tax bill of at least USD 550 million but the Trumps paid a total of just USD 52.2 million, the Times said, citing tax records.
Trump lawyer issues denial
Trump declined to comment on the article but Charles Harder, one of his lawyers, issued a statement to the newspaper.
"The New York Times's allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 per cent false, and highly defamatory," Harder said. "There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone. The facts upon which The Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate."
"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 Times said Trump's tax-hating father used "relentless and creative" ways to funnel his wealth to his children and shield it from the Internal Revenue Service.
"Much of his giving was structured to sidestep gift and inheritance taxes using methods tax experts described to The Times as improper or possibly illegal," the newspaper said.
For example, the Times said Fred Trump gave ownership of most of his real estate empire to his children a year and a half before his death.
The properties were valued at just USD 41.4 million although they were sold off over the next decade for more than 16 times that amount, it said.
The low value put on the real estate allowed the family to dodge hundreds of millions of dollars in gift taxes, the newspaper said.
It said Trump got a cut of USD 177.3 million, or USD 236.2 million, in today's dollars from the sale.
Breaking with the practice of past presidents, Trump has refused so far to release his tax returns.
Citing tax experts, the Times said Trump was not likely to face criminal prosecution for helping his parents evade taxes but could face civil fines for tax fraud if the matter is pursued by the authorities....