Monday 16 September 2019

President Trump funded bid to keep tax break that he now wants to end

Donald Trump supported the Coalition Against Double Taxation in 1985
Donald Trump supported the Coalition Against Double Taxation in 1985

Ben Brody

US President Donald Trump was once one of the top funders of an effort by wealthy New York real estate executives to preserve a tax break that he now wants to end, a memo obtained by Bloomberg shows.

Trump Organization, the corporate umbrella for Trump's business interests, gave $60,000 to the Coalition Against Double Taxation in 1985 in a bid to protect the federal deduction for state and local taxes, according to the memo, dated May 14, 1986. Thanks to intense lobbying, the deduction survived a major overhaul of the US tax code later that year.

For Trump, what was then a rewarding tax break is now a potential windfall to help offset deep tax cuts: The White House and congressional leaders released a plan last week to overhaul the tax code that would include slashing rates on businesses and individuals. Ending the state and local tax break, known as SALT, would raise an estimated $1.3tn over a decade.

Natalie Strom, a White House spokeswoman, said that "there are very few people who understand the tax system, the loopholes and exemptions currently buried in our overtly-complicated tax code better than Trump".

Strom made clear that she was not confirming the contents of the 1986 memo. She also said that 80pc of the benefit from the SALT deduction goes to the top 20pc of households.

Even so, one of Trump's top economic advisers, Gary Cohn, has said the proposal to end the SALT deduction is up for negotiation.

In 1985, Trump pledged at least part of his contribution to the pro-SALT coalition at a breakfast fundraiser at the Regency Hotel, according to a person who attended the meeting.

About 20 people attended the event - most of whom were real estate tycoons, whose property bills could have skyrocketed if the deduction were eliminated. The Trump Organization donated $60,000 in 1985.


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