BEDMINSTER, N.J. ― As Donald Trump the president tees off Thursday morning for another round on his golf vacation, Donald Trump the goatherd continues to enjoy a tax break likely worth $88,000 annually from the “farm” exemption his tiny flock helps him keep.
According to his golf course’s latest filing with Bedminster Township to justify its “farmland assessment” tax break, Trump maintains eight goats and farms hay on 113.2 acres. Another 70.6 acres of adjacent woods are also set aside as agricultural, so that a total of 183.8 of the golf resort’s 514 acres are taxed at a much lower rate ― just over $6 an acre, rather than $462.
A HuffPost analysis of the taxes paid by the various tracts that make up Trump National Golf Club Bedminster shows that Trump is paying $88,067 less in property taxes in 2019 than he would have had those acres been taxed at the average rate of the land in the remainder of the golf resort.
“Looks like Trump is fleecing taxpayers yet again,” said Robert Weissman, president of the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen. “What’s now become very clear is that a very substantial portion of the Trump fortune is due to tax evasion, including his evasion of taxes on his daddy’s wealth.”
The New York Times reported extensively last year on the techniques Trump used to avoid paying taxes on the eight-figure fortune he inherited from his father, which has served as the basis of his wealth for the decades since.
One longtime Trump associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Trump has long sought any advantage he could get. “I don’t think these properties are profit centers for him,” the associate said. “He’s always looking for breaks.”
It is unclear exactly what, if any, business purpose the goats serve beyond providing Trump a tax break. The Trump Organization, the president’s family business, did not respond to HuffPost’s questions regarding the goats’ purpose or market value. Nor did Rob Wagner, the golf course official who signed the farmland assessment application. The White House also did not respond to goat-related queries.
Trump’s financial disclosure statement for 2018 claims he earned $15,728,752 in income from the resort 45 miles west of Manhattan for “golf related activities.” There is no indication on the form what he made from goat- or hay-related revenues.
Allan Sampson, the “farm operator” listed on Trump’s farmland assessment application, said he plants and harvests the hay but knew nothing of the animals. “I don’t deal with the goats,” he said, declining to provide details about his financial arrangement with the golf resort.
The goats live in a fenced-in pen near the resort’s entrance, adjacent to some tennis courts and an equipment shed and across an access road from the second tee of one of the resort’s two courses.
The farm exemption is a relatively common tax break sought by businesses and landowners in exurban areas, and Trump, a self-described multibillionaire, has aggressively pursued lower tax bills at his properties all over the country. He is reportedly receiving a similar agricultural break for his golf resort in Colts Neck, New Jersey. And in municipalities stretching from Ossining, New York, to Chicago to Palm Beach, Florida, Trump has sued to lower his property taxes, claiming that his hotels and golf resorts are really only worth a fraction of what he says they are worth on his financial disclosure forms, according to ProPublica.
“No doubt Trump aims to milk this farm exemption for whatever he can,” Weissman said.
Trump’s tax returns could offer clues as to the exact value of the Bedminster tax break, as the entity that owns the property is ultimately managed by the trust Trump put under the control of his sons when he became president. The golf is run by “Lamington Farm Club LLC,” which, through a web of interconnected limited liability companies, is owned by the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, from which he personally continues to profit.
Trump promised that if he ran for president, he would proudly release his tax returns, because they would show what a profitable business he’d built. But he broke that pledge immediately after entering the race in 2015, and later became the first major-party nominee to refuse to release his returns since Watergate. He is now suing the state of New York over a new law that would release his state income tax return to some congressional committees that request it.
Trump’s current visit to Bedminster is his 19th golf vacation there since taking office. Although he promised during his presidential campaign that he would be too busy to play golf if he won the White House, let alone take any vacations, Thursday marks his 74th day at his golf course in Bedminster and his 206th day at a golf course he owns.