Donald Trump’s first wife Ivana was buried in a gold-hued coffin at the former president’s New Jersey golf club last month, following an Upper East Side funeral service where she was remembered as a woman who was “adored.”
However, the Trump family has been accused of having ulterior motives for choosing the golf course as Ivana’s final resting place — motives that could benefit the family patriarch’s finances.
Trump’s first wife—and mother to his three oldest children Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric—passed away in July after a fall at her Manhattan home.
She was laid to rest at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, according to the New York Post, which reported that her grave was “not too far from the main clubhouse.”
Could Ivana’s resting place benefit Trump financially?
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 non-profit 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 granted legal protections that other businesses aren’t afforded – for example, if a court judgment orders a cemetery company to repay outstanding debts, the business cannot legally be forced to sell “cemetery property” to settle what it owes.
Does one grave qualify the golf club as a cemetery?
Ivana Trump is the only known person to have been buried onsite at Trump National Golf Club, according to reports.
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.”
She added that in New Jersey, there was “no stipulation regarding a minimum [number] of human remains necessary for the tax breaks to kick in.”
“Looks like one corpse will suffice to make at least three forms of tax vanish,” she said.
Is Trump planning a bigger onsite cemetery?
Representatives for Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization were not available for comment when contacted by Fortune.
However, Trump himself has previously expressed wishes to be buried at his New Jersey golf club, telling the New York Post in 2007 that he wanted to be laid to rest in the “beautiful land” of Bedminster.
“Mr. Trump … specifically chose this property for his final resting place as it is his favorite property,” his company wrote in a 2014 filing seen by the Washington Post.
The filing sought approval to build a 10-plot private family mausoleum at Trump National Golf Club.
Resistance from local decision-makers reportedly led to withdrawals and resubmittal of proposed burial sites over the years, with Trump’s ideas ranging from a small but opulent family mausoleum to a 1,000-grave site that would see plots for sale to members of the golf club.
Has Trump been accused of tax evasion before?
While registering the golf course as a cemetery would exempt it from taxes, the former president 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 reportedly 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.
Meanwhile, 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, insurance and tax breaks.
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