(CBS News) — New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance is looking into a report published in The New York Times alleging President Donald Trump “participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents.”
The Times’ detailed report claims that the current president received far more wealth from his father than he has let on — $413 million in today’s dollars, by the Times’ accounting. And the report says much of that wealth was possible because Mr. Trump and his siblings allegedly set up a sham corporation to disguise gifts from their father.
According to the Times, Mr. Trump allegedly helped his father, Fred Trump, take improper tax deductions, and helped create a plan to undervalue his parents’ real estate properties on tax returns. Fred Trump, also a real estate developer, died in 1999.
“The Tax Department is reviewing the allegations in the NYT article and is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation,” a spokesman for New York’s tax department confirmed to CBS News.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded to the report later Tuesday, calling it a “misleading attack against the Trump family by the failing New York Times.” Sanders claimed that “many decades ago the IRS reviewed and signed off on these transactions.”
Charles Harder, a lawyer representing Mr. Trump, said the report’s claims are “100 percent false.”
“The New York Times’ allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory,” Harder said 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. All estate matters were handled by licensed attorneys, licensed CPAs and licensed real estate appraisers who followed all laws and rules strictly. All matters were filed with the IRS and New York taxing authorities. The returns and tax positions that the Times now attacks were examined in real time by the relevant taxing authorities. 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.”
Harder added that the president “had virtually no involvement whatsoever with these matters,” which were “handled by other Trump family members” who relied on professionals.
The Times says its report is based on interviews with Fred Trump’s former employees and advisers, and on more than 100,000 pages of documents. The Times’ documentation and reporting has not been corroborated by CBS News.
Mr. Trump has often portrayed himself as a self-made man, noting during his presidential campaign that he received a “small” loan of $1 million from his father when he started out his career in real estate.
“My whole life, really, has been a no. It has not been easy for me. I started off in Brooklyn,” Mr. Trump said during a town hall in New Hampshire in October 2015. “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars. I came into Manhattan, and I had to pay him back, and I had to pay him back with interest. But I came into Manhattan and I started buying properties, and I did great.”
But the Times claims Fred Trump actually loaned his son at least $60.7 million, or $140 million in today’s dollars. The Times claims that, had the president done nothing with the money his father gave him but invest it in an index fund tracking the S&P 500, he would be worth roughly $1.96 billion.
The president has refused to release his own, breaking with a practice of recent presidents.
— Kathryn Watson
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