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Trump Fights Property Taxes

March 29, 1988

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who calls his opulent Palm Beach home ″close to paradise″ in his best-selling book, says his $208,000 property tax bill is too high.

The assessment on the 118-room Mar-A-Lago estate is ″excessive and unlawful,″ according to Trump, though he admits having offered $8 million more for the estate than he finally paid for it.

Trump, whose worth is estimated by Forbes magazine at $850 million, paid $7 million in cash for the estate, once owned by breakfast cereal fortune heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, when he bought it Dec. 27, 1985.

On Jan. 1, 1986, Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Rebecca Walker set its value at $11.5 million.

″Market value, by law, is the test to determine the assessment,″ Trump’s attorney, Robb Maass, said. ″Our client paid $7 million just five days before the assessment, which was $4.5 million more. The assessment is unlawful.″

The county claims Trump owes $208,340 in 1986 taxes. In a suit filed against the appraiser, Trump contends he owes about $121,743.

Trump, who was scheduled to fight the assessment in Palm Beach County circuit court today, first offered $15 million for the estate in 1982, according to his book ″Trump: The Art of the Deal.″

The Post Foundation rejected the offer.

But as subsequent offers from other investors fell through, Trump continued to make bids, each one smaller than the one before, until the deal was made.

″Buying Mar-A-Lago was a great deal, even though I bought it to live in, not as a real estate investment,″ Trump wrote in his book. ″It just goes to show that it pays to move quickly and decisively when the time is right.″

Trump’s opponents in the lawsuit say he knew the house was worth much more than what he paid for it.

″It is apparent that he got the deal of the century for that house,″ Gaylord Wood, the appraiser’s attorney, said.

Several neighboring estates sold for $12 million and $13 million shortly after Trump bought Mar-A-Lago, Wood said.

The 17-acre Mar-A-Lago estate, between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, was built for Post in 1927 with 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, a theater, a six-car garage and a nine-hole golf course.

″It may be as close to paradise as I’m going to get,″ Trump wrote.

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