By helping his father engage in dubious tax schemes, Donald Trump inherited hundreds of millions of dollars, The New York Times said. The report contains a "spectrum of questionable transactions," a legal expert told DW.
The New York Times published an investigative report on Tuesday stating that US President Donald Trump took part in illegal tax schemes that let him inherit (in today's dollars) "$400 million from his father’s empire, much of it through dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud."
The report contradicts the president's longstanding descriptions of himself as a self-made businessman who used a small loan from his father, Fred Trump, to build a billion-dollar real estate empire.
What the New York Times found: Key claims
Potential impact of the report
While The New York Times made it clear the investigation did not include Donald Trump's personal returns, the paper said the findings show how the president's wealth has always been "deeply intertwined with, and dependent on" on his father's wealth — a stark contrast to Donald Trump's self-promoted image as an independently successful businessman.
The report could spur further investigations by tax authorities into past Trump family tax practices. If substantiated, civil fines could be imposed for tax fraud, the paper said, citing tax experts.
Tax expert's take: DW asked Grayson McCouch, a legal expert in estate and gift taxation and a law professor at the University of Florida, to weigh in on the report:
The White House described the report as a "misleading attack against the Trump family by the failing New York Times," also criticizing the paper and other media outlets for constantly "attacking" the president and his family. Administration spokesperson Sarah Sanders added that US tax authorities had "reviewed and signed off on these transactions."
"All appropriate gift and estate tax returns were filed, and the required taxes were paid," Donald Trump's brother Robert said in a statement included in the paper's report, adding that both national and state tax authorities closed his parents' estates.
"The New York Times’s allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory," Donald Trump's lawyer, Charles Harder, wrote in a statement. "There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone. The facts upon which The Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate."
Why the focus on Trump's taxes
Trump has consistently claimed he built up his own real estate empire wth minimal financial help from his father, a real estate mogul. Trump not only used the description to promote his image as a skilled businessman but also to paint himself as a "self-made man" during his presidential candidacy.
Additionally, unlike previous US presidents, Donald Trump has refused to release his personal tax returns. Previous media investigations found that Trump recorded a massive loss in 1995 to avoid paying taxes.
cmb/jm (AP, Reuters)