Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father
REMNANTS OF EMPIRE
After Fred Trump’s death, his children used familiar methods to devalue what little of his life’s work was still in his name.
During Fred Trump’s final years, dementia stole most of his memories. When family visited, there was one name he could reliably put to a face.
On June 7, 1999, Fred Trump was admitted to Long Island Jewish Medical Center, not far from the house in Jamaica Estates, for treatment of pneumonia. He died there on June 25, at the age of 93.
Fifteen months later, Fred Trump’s executors — Donald, Maryanne and Robert — filed his estate tax return. The return, obtained by The Times, vividly illustrates the effectiveness of the tax strategies devised by the Trumps in the early 1990s.
Fred Trump, one of the most prolific New York developers of his time, owned just five apartment complexes, two small strip malls and a scattering of co-ops in the city upon his death. The man who paid himself $50 million in 1990 died with just $1.9 million in the bank. He owned not a single stock, bond or Treasury bill. According to his estate tax return, his most valuable asset was a $10.3 million I.O.U. from Donald Trump, money his son appears to have borrowed the year before Fred Trump died.
The bulk of Fred Trump’s empire was nowhere to be found on his estate tax return. And yet Donald Trump and his siblings were not done. Recycling the legally dubious techniques they had mastered with the GRATs, they dodged tens of millions of dollars in estate taxes on the remnants of empire that Fred Trump still owned when he died, The Times found.
As with the GRATs, they obtained appraisals from Mr. Von Ancken that grossly understated the actual market value of those remnants. And as with the GRATs, they aggressively discounted Mr. Von Ancken’s appraisals. The result: They claimed that the five apartment complexes and two strip malls were worth $15 million. In 2004, records show, bankers would put a value of $176.2 million on the exact same properties.
The most improbable of these valuations was for Tysens Park Apartments, a complex of eight buildings with 1,019 units on Staten Island. On the portion of the estate tax return where they were required to list Tysens Park’s value, the Trumps simply left a blank space and claimed they owed no estate taxes on it at all.
这些估值中最荒唐的是泰森斯公园公寓(Tysens Park Apartments)，该公寓楼盘由八栋大楼组成，位于斯塔顿岛，共有1019个单元。在遗产税报税表中，特朗普家族被要求给出泰森斯公园公寓价值的地方，他们什么都没填，并声称对这处遗产根本不欠任何遗产税。
As with the Trump Village appraisal, the Trumps appear to have hidden key facts from the I.R.S. Tysens Park, like Trump Village, had operated for years under an affordable housing program that by law capped Fred Trump’s profits. This cap drastically reduced the property’s market value.
Except for one thing: The Trumps had removed Tysens Park from the affordable housing program the year before Fred Trump died, The Times found. When Donald Trump and his siblings filed Fred Trump’s estate tax return, there were no limits on their profits. In fact, they had already begun raising rents.
As their father’s executors, Donald, Maryanne and Robert were legally responsible for the accuracy of his estate tax return. They were obligated not only to give the I.R.S. a complete accounting of the value of his estate’s assets, but also to disclose all the taxable gifts he made during his lifetime, including, for example, the $15.5 million Trump Palace gift to Donald Trump and the millions of dollars he gave his children via All County’s padded invoices.
“If they knew anything was wrong they could be in violation of tax law,” Mr. Tritt, the University of Florida law professor, said. “They can’t just stick their heads in the sand.”
“如果他们知道这里面有不对之处的话，他们很可能违反了税法，”佛罗里达大学(University of Florida)法学教授特里特说。“他们不能只是回避问题。”
In addition to drastically understating the value of apartment complexes and shopping centers, Fred Trump’s estate tax return made no mention of either Trump Palace or All County.
It wasn’t until after Fred Trump’s wife, Mary, died at 88 on Aug. 7, 2000, that the I.R.S. completed its audit of their combined estates. The audit concluded that their estates were worth $51.8 million, 23 percent more than Donald Trump and his siblings had claimed. 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com
That meant an additional $5.2 million in estate taxes. Even so, the Trumps’ tax bill was a fraction of what they would have owed had they reported the market value of what Fred and Mary Trump owned at the time of their deaths.
Mr. Harder, the president’s lawyer, defended the tax returns filed by the Trumps. “The returns and tax positions that The Times now attacks were examined in real time by the relevant taxing authorities,” he said. “The taxing authorities requested a few minor adjustments, which were made, and then fully approved all of the tax filings. These matters have now been closed for more than a decade.”
A GOOD TIME TO SELL
Donald Trump, in financial trouble again, pitched the idea of selling the still-profitable empire that his father had wanted to keep in the family.
In 2003, the Trump siblings gathered at Trump Tower for one of their periodic updates on their inherited empire.
As always, Robert Trump drove into Manhattan with several of his lieutenants. Donald Trump appeared with Allen H. Weisselberg, who had worked for Fred Trump for two decades before becoming his son’s chief financial officer. The sisters, Maryanne Trump Barry and Elizabeth Trump Grau, were there as well.
和往常一样，罗伯特·特朗普带着他的几个副手开车来到曼哈顿。唐纳德·特朗普与艾伦·H·魏塞尔贝格(Allen H. Weisselberg)一同到场，魏塞尔贝格为弗雷德·特朗普工作了20年之后，成了唐纳德的首席财务官。姐妹俩玛丽安·特朗普·巴里和伊丽莎白·特朗普·格劳也在场。
The meeting followed the usual routine: a financial report, a rundown of operational issues and then the real business — distributing profits to each Trump. The task of handing out the checks fell to Steve Gurien, the empire’s finance chief.
A moment later, Donald Trump abruptly changed the course of his family’s history: He said it was a good time to sell.
Fred Trump’s empire, in fact, was continuing to produce healthy profits, and selling contradicted his stated wish to keep his legacy in the family. But Donald Trump insisted that the real estate market had peaked and that the time was right, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
He was also, once again, in financial trouble. His Atlantic City casinos were veering toward another bankruptcy. His creditors would soon threaten to oust him unless he committed to invest $55 million of his own money.
Yet if Donald Trump’s sudden push to sell stunned the room, it met with no apparent resistance from his siblings. He directed his brother to solicit private bids, saying he wanted the sale handled quickly and quietly. Donald Trump’s signature skill — drumming up publicity for the Trump brand — would sit this one out.
Three potential bidders were given access to the finances of Fred Trump’s empire — 37 apartment complexes and several shopping centers. Ruby Schron, a major New York City landlord, quickly emerged as the favorite. In December 2003, Mr. Schron called Donald Trump and they came to an agreement; Mr. Schron paid $705.6 million for most of the empire, which included paying off the Trumps’ mortgages. A few remaining properties were sold to other buyers, bringing the total sales price to $737.9 million.
On May 4, 2004, the Trump children spent most of the day signing away ownership of what their father had doggedly built over 70 years. The sale received little news coverage, and an article in The Staten Island Advance included the rarest of phrases: “Trump did not return a phone call seeking comment.”
2004年5月4日，特朗普家子女这天的大部分时间都花在了签字上，他们卖掉了父亲70多年锲而不舍地营造出来的帝国的所有权。这笔交易几乎没有新闻报道，《斯塔顿岛先锋报》(The Staten Island Advance)上的一篇文章里有句最少见的话：“特朗普没有回复要求置评的电话。”
Even more extraordinary was this unreported fact: The banks financing Mr. Schron’s purchase valued Fred Trump’s empire at nearly $1 billion. In other words, Donald Trump, master dealmaker, sold his father’s empire for hundreds of millions less than it was worth.
Within a year of the sale, Mr. Trump spent $149 million in cash on a rapid series of transactions that bolstered his billionaire bona fides. In June 2004 he agreed to pay $73 million to buy out his partner in the planned Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. (“I’m just buying it with my own cash,” he told reporters.) He paid $55 million in cash to make peace with his casino creditors. Then he put up $21 million more in cash to help finance his purchase of Maison de l’Amitié, a waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., that he later sold to a Russian oligarch.
在这笔交易完成后的一年内，特朗普就花掉了1.49亿美元的现金，快速地进行了一连串的交易，增强了他的亿万富翁名声。2004年6月，他同意以7300万美元买断计划在芝加哥建设的特朗普国际酒店大厦(Trump International Hotel & Tower)的合伙人股份。（“我只是在用自己的现金来买，”他告诉记者。）他付了5500万美元的现金与他赌场的债权人言归于好。然后他又拿出2100万美元的更多现金，为自己购买佛罗里达棕榈滩的海滨豪宅友谊宅邸(Maison de l’Amitié)助一臂之力，他后来把这个豪宅卖给了一位俄罗斯寡头。
The first season of “The Apprentice” was broadcast in 2004, just as Donald Trump was wrapping up the sale of his father’s empire. The show’s opening montage — quick cuts of a glittering Trump casino, then Trump Tower, then a Trump helicopter mid-flight, then a limousine depositing the man himself at the steps of his jet, all set to the song “For the Love of Money” — is a reminder that the story of Donald Trump is fundamentally a story of money.
电视真人秀《学徒》的第一季在2004年开播，那正是唐纳德·特朗普在完成父亲资产出售的时候。节目的开场是一连串镜头快速剪切——金碧辉煌的特朗普赌场、特朗普大厦、一架飞行中的特朗普直升机、一辆豪华轿车把他本人送到他的喷气机舷梯前，这段剪切配的曲子“因为爱钱”(For the Love of Money)提醒着人们，唐纳德·特朗普的故事本质上就是个金钱的故事。
Money is at the core of the brand Mr. Trump has so successfully sold to the world. Yet essential to that mythmaking has been keeping the truth of his money — how much of it he actually has, where and whom it came from — hidden or obscured. Across the decades, aided and abetted by less-than-aggressive journalism, Mr. Trump has made sure his financial history would be sensationalized far more than seen.
Just this year, in a confessional essay for The Washington Post, Jonathan Greenberg, a former reporter for Forbes, described how Mr. Trump, identifying himself as John Barron, a spokesman for Donald Trump, repeatedly and flagrantly lied to get himself on the magazine’s first-ever list of wealthiest Americans in 1982. Because of Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, the public has been left to interpret contradictory glimpses of his income offered up by anonymous leaks. A few pages from one tax return, mailed to The Times in September 2016, showed that he declared a staggering loss of $916 million in 1995. A couple of pages from another return, disclosed on Rachel Maddow’s program, showed that he earned an impressive $150 million in 2005.
就在今年，《华盛顿邮报》发表的一篇满是悔意的文章里，前《福布斯》杂志记者乔纳森·格林伯格(Jonathan Greenberg)讲述了唐纳德·特朗普当年是怎样冒充他自己的发言人约翰·巴伦(John Barron)，一次次地公然说谎，最终让自己上了该杂志1982年首次发布的美国富豪榜。由于特朗普拒绝公开他的报税表，公众只能自己去解释匿名爆料提供的特朗普个人收入的自相矛盾的点滴。2016年9月寄到时报的一份报税表中的几页显示，特朗普在1995年申报了高达9.16亿美元的亏损。在主持人雷切尔·玛多(Rachel Maddow)节目中披露的另一份报税表中的几页显示，他在2005年赚了令人赞叹的1.5亿美元。
In a statement to The Times, the president’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, reiterated what Mr. Trump has always claimed about the evolution of his fortune: “The president’s father gave him an initial $1 million loan, which he paid back. President Trump used this money to build an incredibly successful company as well as net worth of over $10 billion, including owning some of the world’s greatest real estate.”
总统的发言人萨拉·赫卡比·桑德斯(Sarah Huckabee Sanders)在致时报的一份声明中重申了特朗普对其个人财富发展始终坚持的说法：“总统的父亲给了他最初的100万美元借款，他早已还清了。特朗普总统用这笔钱建立起一家无比成功的公司、以及超过100亿美元的净资产，其中包括持有若干处全世界最好的房产。”
Today, the chasm between that claim of being worth more than $10 billion and a Bloomberg estimate of $2.8 billion reflects the depth of uncertainty that remains about one of the most chronicled public figures in American history. Questions about newer money sources are rapidly accumulating because of the Russia investigation and lawsuits alleging that Mr. Trump is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign governments.
But the more than 100,000 pages of records obtained during this investigation make it possible to sweep away decades of misinformation and arrive at a clear understanding about the original source of Mr. Trump’s wealth — his father.
Here is what can be said with certainty: Had Mr. Trump done nothing but invest the money his father gave him in an index fund that tracks the Standard & Poor’s 500, he would be worth $1.96 billion today. As for that $1 million loan, Fred Trump actually lent him at least $60.7 million, or $140 million in today’s dollars, The Times found.
And there is one more Fred Trump windfall coming Donald Trump’s way. Starrett City, the Brooklyn housing complex that the Trumps invested in back in the 1970s, sold this year for $905 million. Donald Trump’s share of the proceeds is expected to exceed $16 million, records show.
It was an investment made with Fred Trump’s money and connections. But in Donald Trump’s version of his life, Starrett City is always and forever “one of the best investments I ever made.”