Tax break! Why Donald Trump buried ex-wife Ivana at a golf course
Donald Trump’s first wife Ivana was buried at the former president’s New Jersey golf club last month. Mother to his three oldest children Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, Ivana passed away in July.
However, the Trump family has been accused of having ulterior motives for choosing the golf course as her final resting place, motives that could benefit the family patriarch’s finances.
Documents published by ProPublica show that the Trump Family Trust previously sought to designate a property in Hackettstown, around 20 miles from the golf course where Ivana is buried, as a nonprofit cemetery company.
Defining the golf course as a cemetery could grant the business a whole raft of tax breaks. Under New Jersey law, land being used for cemetery purposes is exempt from real estate and personal property taxes, as well as sales tax, inheritance tax, business tax, and income tax.
Cemetery property is also exempt from sale for collection of judgments, with cemetery trust funds and trust income exempt from both tax and sale or seizure for collection of judgments against the company.
Ivana Trump is the only known person to have been buried at Trump National Golf Club, according to reports. However, Trump’s company sought approval, in a 2014 filing, to build a 10-plot private family mausoleum at the golf club, according to The Washington Post.
The 2014 filing also said that Trump “specifically chose this property for his final resting place as it is his favorite property”.
Resistance from local decision makers reportedly led to withdrawals and resubmittals of proposed burial sites over the years, with Trump’s ideas ranging from a small family mausoleum to a 1,000-grave site that would see plots for sale to members of the golf club.
Brooke Harrington, a tax researcher and professor of sociology at Dartmouth, said in a tweet on Sunday that using the golf course as a cemetery was “a trifecta of tax avoidance.”
“As a tax researcher, I was skeptical of rumors Trump buried his ex-wife in that sad little plot of dirt on his Bedminster, NJ golf course just for tax breaks”, she wrote.
Image: screenshot Twitter @EBHarrington
“So I checked the NJ tax code & folks...it's a trifecta of tax avoidance. Property, income & sales tax, all eliminated”, she added.
Image: Olga Delawrence/Unsplash
She added that in New Jersey, there is no stipulation regarding a minimum of human remains necessary for the tax breaks to apply. “Looks like one corpse will suffice to make at least three forms of tax vanish,” she said.
Image: CA Creative/Unsplash
While registering the golf course as a cemetery would exempt it from taxes, Trump had already found a way to slash his tax bill for the New Jersey club by registering it as a farm, the Huffington Post reported in 2019.
Trump owns several goats and farms hay at the resort, which reduced his tax bill by around $88,000 a year, according to a Huffington Post analysis. Under this arrangement, the golf course was taxed at just over $6 an acre in 2019, rather than $462 an acre.
A year earlier, the New York Times reported that Trump had used various techniques to evade taxes on the fortune he inherited from his father.
Furthermore, documents filed by the New York attorney general earlier this year accused the Trump Organization of massively misrepresenting the value of some of its biggest assets in order to secure loans and insurance and tax breaks.