How Trump used goats to cut millions of dollars off his local property taxes, and paid just $700 last year

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How Trump used goats to cut millions of dollars off his local property taxes, and paid just $700 last year
President Donald Trump's golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey keeps goats on the property as a way to qualify for a tax break for farms. Getty; iStock; Skye Gould/Business Insider
  • Donald Trump has always found ways to cut his business costs, including how much he pays in taxes.
  • He used a tax maneuver with the help of goats to save millions in property taxes in Bedminster.
  • Trump has for at least 17 years now claimed the lucrative tax break popular among estate holders there.

Former President Donald Trump paid just $700 in property taxes last year for the 119-acre portion of his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club that's registered as a working farm.

The trick? Trump, who is fighting to keep his personal tax returns hidden from congressional investigators, occasionally invites goats to chow down on the chunk of the Garden State he scooped up in 2002.

The roaming ruminants allow the twice-impeached former president to claim New Jersey's farmland assessment reduction - a tax-shaving strategy that's likely saved the businessman-turned-politician more than $3 million since the club opened in 2004.

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Local tax records dating back to 2017 show that Trump's golf club is split in two for tax purposes: the 244-acre members-only golf course, and the goat-tended, 119-acre farm.

Filings reviewed by Insider show that in 2020 Trump paid $400,000 in property taxes for the golf club, which Bedminister calculates is worth $29 million. That same year the farm, which is about half the size of the golf course, cost Trump $700 in property taxes, based on an assessed value of $51,000.

That means if the farm were taxed on par with the golf course, he'd be on the hook for approximately $199,000 more per year over the past two decades. That's millions in lost revenue the town of 8,300 people could have put towards improving roads, schools, or the beloved local library.

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The farmland tax reduction is just one of the many ways Trump has been known to shave the cost of running his businesses, including in Bedminster where locals would like to forget their most infamous neighbor.

According to The Washington Post, Trump's company secretly hired unauthorized Costa Rican workers to shape his suburban retreat for a fraction of what he would have had to pay unionized locals.

Importing foreign laborers cut costs on the front end.

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"He didn't exactly help the local economy while building his golf course," a local Democrat in the area who requested anonymity, told Insider during a recent trip there.

Insider has reached out to the Trump Organization for comment and will update when it responds.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on Trump's use of the farmland tax assessment reduction in 2016. Records seen by Insider show he's still using it. The controversial tax-slashing maneuver, initially meant to help farmers, is one Trump's predecessor, disgraced industrialist John DeLorean, also exploited.

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More than 300 other local residents who own large swathes of land do the same each year, according to Bedminster Tax Assessor Edward Kerwin.

He told Insider that Trump National has claimed the farm tax break from day one. Kerwin wouldn't specify which of the neighboring golf clubs - including the 700-acre Hamilton Farm Golf Club and 1,000-acre Fiddler's Elbow Country Club - have also claimed the tax break. But he confirmed that at least one of them had.

Core requirements for the tax break include devoting at least 5 acres to a farm-related activity and producing at least $1,000 per year from that operation.

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A New York Times investigation in 2020 revealed that Trump's tax-avoidance moves had helped him pay just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and the same amount in 2017.

Hannah Beckler contributed reporting.

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