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March 11, 2016

Building-Rights Gifts Put Trump in Line for Big Tax Breaks

Donald Trump's donations of development rights on properties he owns might be saving him millions of dollars in taxes, according to The Wall Street Journal. The "conservation easements" on Mr. Trump's Westchester County, N.Y., estate and resort and golf properties in Florida, California, and New Jersey put the Republican presidential frontrunner in line for sizable federal tax deductions.

Giving up certain rights to build on a property by donating them to conservation groups or government agencies entitles the owner to a tax break on the difference between the property's assessed value before and after the easement. The easements are viewed as a valuable tool for protecting open spaces and wildlife habitats but can be abused by wealthy landowners for tax purposes, the Journal writes.

Mr. Trump has not made his tax returns public, so it is impossible to determine what he deducted for the easements or his overall level of philanthropy. His campaign has pegged his giving at $102 million over five years and cited donations of "valuable parcels of land throughout the country." In federal financial disclosures Mr. Trump stated the value of four properties on which he is known to have donated development rights at more than $50 million each.

See a Chronicle of Philanthropy snapshot at the four leading presidential candidates' giving and a closer look at Mr. Trump's donor activity.