Donald Trump helped parents shield millions from taxes, says New York Times

Trump puts on a hard hat presented to him at the National Electrical Contractors Association Convention in Philadelphia, Oct. 2, 2018.
Trump puts on a hard hat presented to him at the National Electrical Contractors Association Convention in Philadelphia, Oct. 2, 2018.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - United States President Donald Trump engaged in tax schemes that included cases of fraud in which he and his siblings helped their parents dodge taxes, the New York Times reported on Tuesday (Oct 2).

The Times investigation, which a Trump lawyer said was inaccurate, showed that Mr Trump received the equivalent today of at least US$413 million (S$560 million) from his father's real estate business.

The newspaper cited a "vast trove" of confidential tax return and financial records.

The Times reported that much of that fortune came to Mr Trump because he helped his parents evade taxes, setting up a fake corporation with his siblings to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents.

During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump promoted himself as a self-made real estate mogul who started out with only a "very small" loan from his businessman father, Mr Fred Trump.

Reuters has not been able to verify the report.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called the story “misleading” and said in a statement “many decades ago the IRS reviewed and signed off on these transactions.”

Trump’s lawyer Charles Harder told the Times: “President Trump had virtually no involvement whatsoever with these matters.”

“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,” Harder said.  

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter late on Tuesday: “I’ve directed NYC’s Department of Finance to immediately investigate tax and housing violations and to work with NY State to find out if appropriate taxes were paid.”

James Gazzale, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, said earlier the department “is reviewing the allegations in the New York Times article and is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation.”

The US Internal Revenue Service did not reply immediately to a request for comment.

Citing tax experts, the Times reported it was unlikely President 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, according to the paper.

The Times reported that its findings were based on more than 200 tax returns from Mr Fred Trump, his companies and various Trump partnerships and trusts. The records did not include Mr Donald Trump's personal tax returns. Unlike other White House candidates and presidents in recent decades, President Trump has declined to release his tax returns.

According to the newspaper, the report was also based on interviews with Mr 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 cheques," according to the Times.