EXCLUSIVE: Donald Trump sues over taxable value of Jupiter golf club

July 13, 2017
Then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club Jupiter in Jupiter, Fla., on March 8, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

How much is the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter worth? The answer is as complicated and contradictory as the property’s famous owner.

President Donald Trump’s financial disclosures in 2016 and 2017 list the value of Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter as “over $50 million.” But in an ongoing lawsuit against the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser, Trump insists the value “should be no more than” $5 million.

In what has become an annual rite of summer, Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter this week sued the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser and the Florida Department of Revenue concerning the taxable value of the 213-acre property.

Jupiter Golf Club LLC, owner of the course, filed suit against Property Appraiser Dorothy Jacks, Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon and the head of the Florida Department of Revenue. The complaint doesn’t say how much the property is worth, but it does contest the property appraiser’s estimate of $18.4 million.

Each July since 2014, Trump has sued the property appraiser to contest the valuation of the course. In the original 2014 suit, Trump said the taxable value of $25 million far overstated the golf club’s true worth.

In that suit, Trump said he paid just $5 million for the then-troubled course in 2012. An attorney representing the property appraiser’s office declined to comment. An attorney representing Trump didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A commercial property appraisal gauges the value of the real estate underlying a business, but it doesn’t reflect the full value of an operation such as Trump’s golf club.

The property appraiser’s latest estimate values Trump National Golf Club at $18.4 million. Based on that valuation, his annual tax bill would be $383,171.

The property-tax rate on the golf course is about 2 percent, so each $1 million reduction in taxable value saves Trump about $20,000 in annual property taxes.

Since his election in November, Trump frequently has played at the course, and in February Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined Trump there.

It’s not unusual for property owners to dispute tax valuations, and Trump has proven a particularly litigious businessman. However, it is unusual for a sitting president to be locked in a legal battle with local authorities.

Trump’s Jupiter property has been the source of no shortage of legal entanglements. In February, a federal judge ordered Trump to repay $5.8 million in deposits he improperly pocketed from former members.