Donald Trump’s Scottish golf courses are expected to get a tax rebate of nearly £1m as part of a government bailout for tourism businesses hit by the coronavirus crisis, the Guardian can reveal.
The Trump Organization’s golf resorts in Aberdeenshire and Turnberry will benefit from emergency funding from the Scottish government worth £2.3bn, which includes waiving the property taxes paid by hospitality, leisure and retail businesses this year.
Before the coronavirus crisis, Trump Turnberry had been due to pay £850,766 in property tax this year and Trump Aberdeenshire £121,170.
This week South Ayrshire, the local council which includes Turnberry, and Aberdeenshire council are expected to tell both businesses they no longer have to pay that tax, known as business rates, because they qualify for 100% relief.
Both resorts have been able to avoid paying corporation tax, the main business tax in the UK, because they consistently report heavy losses due to their debts to Trump himself, cumulatively put at £155m in 2018.
The revelation comes as some Democrats in the US Congress raise questions about whether it is lawful for Trump’s companies to accept any benefits from a foreign country, including bailout funds from the UK and Scottish governments.
The House oversight committee asked the Trump Organization to supply it with all documents related to the company’s applications for loans or other funds by 21 May. There is no evidence that the company has complied with the request.
One ethics expert in Washington stopped short of saying the property tax benefit represented an illegal gift under the emoluments clause of the US constitution – which was designed to block federal officials from receiving foreign payments – but said the tax rebate was nevertheless problematic.
The US Congress has passed legislation prohibiting US taxpayer funds from being used to benefit companies in which Trump holds a stake.
“It is troubling that he is getting essentially a benefit from the Scottish government, regardless whether it is an emolument. You shouldn’t have a president who is in this kind of position who can say: ‘I like what the UK did and I benefitted,’” said Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
In Scotland, the Aberdeenshire councillor Martin Ford said he did not object to Trump’s businesses using a furlough scheme that allowed staff to continue to be paid, but criticised the business rates relief. “Taxpayer assistance for a business owned by someone who boasts he is a multi-billionaire is quite another matter,” Ford said.
“Unlike many people, Mr Trump won’t be suffering any financial hardship. He doesn’t need help. Mr Trump was given every assistance to set up in Scotland and the Scottish government repeated his ridiculous claims of an enormous economic and…