Donald Trump has been accused of burying first wife Ivana at his New Jersey golf club to exploit state tax exemptions on cemeteries.
Dartmouth sociology professor Brooke Harrington, who brands herself a tax researcher, tweeted: ‘I was skeptical of rumors Trump buried his ex-wife in that sad little plot of dirt on his Bedminster, NJ golf course just for tax breaks.’
She concluded: ‘So I checked the NJ tax code & folks…it’s a trifecta of tax avoidance. Property, income & sales tax, all eliminated.’
Harrington later tweeted that there was no stipulation on the amount of human remains necessary in order to qualify for the break.
The academic also shared a screen grab of the New Jersey state laws on tax breaks for cemeteries to prove her point.
Plots of land in New Jersey that are designated for use as a cemetery are not subjected to property, income or sales tax.
Ivana was buried in a plot close to the first tee of the golf course following her funeral in Manhattan on July 20. The former Czech model was found dead in her home on July 14 after falling down some stairs. She was 73 years old.
Ivana’s final resting place is marked with a wreath of while flowers and a glossy granite stone which is engraved with her name and date of birth to date of death
It is surrounded by trees and backs onto a small dip near the entrance to the course, the first plot in the ten which have been sectioned off for the Trump family cemetery
Dartmouth sociology professor Brooke Harrington, who calls herself a tax researcher, concluded that Trump is avoiding three types of taxes with the cemetery
Phoebe Wall Howard of USA Today tweeted: ‘New Jersey law exempts land used for cemetery purposes from income, sales and use taxes. The #ivanatrump burial site at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster likely delivers a huge tax break.’
Howard followed that up by saying: ‘Business and inheritance taxes are exempt, too. Also, cemetery property is exempt from sale for collection of judgments.’
The break applies as long as the plot of land is less than 10 acres. The designated land at Bedminster is 1.5 acres, meaning any tax exemption would not apply to the entirety of the golf club.
Trump previously designated the plot as a farm to benefit from further tax breaks, as it produced mulch used for gardening.
The full law on taxation and cemeteries reads: ‘Graveyards and burial grounds used or intended to be used for the interment of bodies of the dead or the ashes thereof not exceeding ten acres of ground, and cemeteries and buildings for cemetery use erected thereon, and all mausoleums, vaults, crypts or structures intended to hold or contain the bodies of the dead or the ashes thereof, and solely devoted to or held for that purpose shall be exempt from taxation under this chapter.
According to a 2017 Washington Post feature, Trump’s company wrote in filings: ‘Mr. Trump… specifically chose this property for his final resting place as it is his favorite property.’
In the same feature, it was detailed thanks to the Trump Organization successfully having the land where the cemetery is located classified as farmland.
Thanks to New Jersey’s pro-farm taxation policies, Trump only pays $16.31 per year in taxes on the plot.
In 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bedminster was home to a herd of goats which contributed the organization’s claims that the area was farmland.
Ivanka Trump with Donald, Melania and the rest of the family leaving the funeral home
The Journal estimated that without the farmland tax break, Trump would have to pay around $80,000 per year in levies.
Prior to her burial, the Trump Organization had consecrated the land at Bedminster ‘so that she could have a traditional Catholic burial,’ according to the New York Times.
Ivana’s grave cannot be seen from the Bedminster clubhouse.
In 2014, the Trump Organization received permits for 10 burial plots on his land for members of his plan.
The organization upped the ante in 2017 when they applied for nearly 300 plots on the golf course to be sold to members of the club who shell out $300,000, reports NJ.com.
His consultant Ed Russo told the website: ‘It’s one thing to be buried in a typical cemetery but it’s another if you’re buried alongside the fifth fairway of Trump National, where golfers will hold memberships over many generations.’
The Mayor of Bedminster, Robert Holtaway, told the Washington Post that members were ‘baffled’ by the petition.
Holtaway said: ‘It never made any sense to me. We don’t question motives. We’re there as a land-use board.’
The former president has flip-flopped on where he wants to be buried
Close friends and family members attended the burial service at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club following the service
Ivana Trump on July 14, after falling in her Upper East Side townhouse. She was last seen on June 22, walking around the Upper East Side with the help of an assistant (left). She is pictured, right, in Paris in 1991
Trump began making plans for the graveyard in 2007. The former Apprentice host was quoted by the New York Post at the time saying: ‘It’s never something you like to thinks about, but it makes sense.’
He continued: ‘This is such beautiful land, and Bedminster is one of the richest place in the country.’
The Post reported at the time that the graveyard plans also included plans for a wedding chapel. In 2009, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and Jared Kushner were married on the property.
The original plan for the cemetery was for a Trump family mausoleum with an altar, six vaults and four 19-foot high stone obelisks.
Although Trump backed away from those plans due to local objections.
The former president has flip-flopped on where he wants to be buried. His late parents rest in a family plot in Queens, while he also has the option of being buried at Arlington, like all other former presidents.
Ed Russo told NJ.com at the time: ‘He was uncomfortable with the discussion, so he stepped back. Then I did some soul-searching myself and talked to members who loved the idea of a cemetery, and I was smart enough to bring it to Mr. Trump and he thought it was a great idea.’
On the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration as president, an activist group named INDECLINE sneaked on the property during the night and set up a mock graveyard. Headstones were placed mourning the loss of ‘decency’ and ‘our future.’
The piece was called Grave New World. A spokesperson for the group said that they were inspired to do the piece after reading about Trump’s plans for a cemetery on the land.
He said: ‘We were just helping him break ground.’