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Trump’s tax bill: Smaller than you think?

(CNN)Until Donald Trump releases his tax returns — which he has steadfastly refused to do after first promising he would — any statements about his net worth, annual income and tax rate are speculative. Still, if we combine what we know about tax loopholes for real estate investors with Trump’s limited financial disclosures and other publicly available information, it is reasonable to surmise, as does expert and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Cay Johnston, that the presumptive Republican presidential contender is paying very little in federal income taxes.



    Clinton video questions Trump’s tax motives


Given their widespread use in the real estate industry and Trump’s own suggestion that he pursues the “lowest tax rate possible,” it seems likely that Trump’s tax returns would show that he has taken extensive advantage of ridiculously large depreciation breaks and the like-kind exchange loophole.
Regardless of the exact details of Trump’s tax shenanigans, Congress should put a stop to tax breaks for real estate magnates. Depreciation deductions should be limited to a percentage of the owner’s equity. The debt-financed part should not qualify for tax deductions. Second, lawmakers should eliminate the like-kind exchange loophole.
Together, these reforms would not only raise large amounts of much-needed federal revenue, but they would also help ensure that real-estate developers are paying their fair share in taxes.

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Playboy mansion sold to billionaire Hostess owner who lives next door

Daren Metropoulos plans to conjoin his property with Hugh Hefners infamous home, which was purchased for about $200m, a spokesman confirmed

The 32-year-old billionaire owner of Twinkies has added the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles to his collection.

Daren Metropoulos, the son of Greek American billionaire and private equity tycoon C Dean Metropoulos, has bought the infamous home of celebrity pornographer Hugh Hefner for about $200m. He currently lives in a $18m mansion next door and plans join the two properties together to create a 7.3 acre compound.

But, theres a catch. Metropoulos wont be able to move into the 29-room Playboy mansion in the exclusive Holmby Hills neighbourhood until its current tenant, Mr Playboy dies. Hefner is 90.

Evan and Daren Metropoulos at the Playboy Mansion on 19 October 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. Photograph: James Lemke Jr/Getty Images

We can confirm that the Playboy Mansion is in escrow with Daren Metropoulos as the buyer, a Playboy Enterprises spokesman told the Guardian. Due to confidentiality restrictions, we are not able to comment on any specifics, including what contingencies need to be cleared to close the sale.

Metropoulous, whose private equity firm bought Twinkies-owner Hostess Brands in 2013 and previously bought and soldPabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) beer, did not respond to requests for comment. He told the Wall Street Journal that: The heritage of this property transcends its celebrity and to have the opportunity to serve as its steward would be a true privilege.

The young entrepreneur is no stranger to the Playboy mansion. In 2013 he and his brother Evan hosted a party with Snoop Dogg in the mansions grounds where they partied with Hefner and the Playboy bunnies.

The mansion, which Playboy Enterprises bought for just over $1m in 1971, boasts according to its $200m listing, 12 bedrooms, a wine cellar, home theater, separate game house, gym, tennis court, a swimming pool with a large, cave-like grotto and, of course, an official zoo license and pet cemetery.

A view of the Playboy mansion. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Playboy put the property up for sale earlier this year as part of the magazines restructuring as it struggles in an age of boundless free internet pornography. At the time Playboys chief executive Scott Flanders promised that Hefner would not be asked to leave the property until he dies. The Playboy mansion has been a creative center for Hef as his residence and workplace for the past 40 years, as it will continue to be if the property is sold, Flanders said.

A-list celebrities are regularly invited into the estates gates, past the Playmates at Play sign, to extravagant parties where alcohol flows freely and scantily clad women abound. Leonardo DiCaprio, Rihanna and Naomi Campbell attended a party there last year.

There is a rumor that John Lennon put a cigarette out on a Matisse there while separated from Yoko Ono. And in March 2015, Playboy reporters found blueprints that showed tunnels built from the mansion to the homes of celebrities including Jack Nicholson and Kirk Douglas.

Hefner said in 2011 that he paid young women living at the mansion with whom he was sexually involved a $1,000-a-week allowance in cash and held them to a 9pm curfew.

One of Hefners ex-girlfriends, Izabella St James, wrote in her book Bunny Tales about the mansions dirty carpets and stained mattresses. Although we all did our best to decorate our rooms and make them homey, the mattresses on our beds were disgusting old, worn and stained, she wrote. The sheets were past their best, too.

Then there was the health scare in February 2011, when more than 100 people fell ill after a party at the mansion. Health authorities said it may have been caused by bacteria identified in the whirlpool spa.

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Greece pushes fresh austerity drive through parliament

Alexis Tsipras gained approval by 152 of 153 of his deputies, despite many of them having previously rejected the proposals

The Greek parliament has approved a fresh round of austerity incorporating 1.8bn in tax increases and widely regarded as the most punitive yet amid hopes the move will lead to much-needed debt relief when eurozone finance ministers meet this week.

Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, mustered the support of 152 of his 153 deputies on Sunday to vote through policies that many have previously rejected.

Addressing the 300-seat house during the heated three-day debate that preceded the ballot, Giorgos Dimaras, an MP in Tsiprass leftwing party, said he was appalled at being forced to support measures he had spent a lifetime opposing.

I am in mourning, he said. This is what can only be called wretchedness.

As parliamentarians had prepared to vote, large crowds of protestors took to the streets with Panaghiotis Lafazanis, a former minister who broke ranks with Syriza to form the Popular Unity party, taking the demonstration to the foot of the building itself where he unfurled a giant banner proclaiming: The memorandum will not pass.

The belt-tightening legislation, outlined in a 7,500-page omnibus bill, includes measures that range from the taxation of coffee and luxury goods to the creation of a new privatisation fund in charge of real estate assets for the next 99 years. Under the stewardship of EU officials, the body will oversee the sale of about 71,500 pieces of prime public property in what will amount to collateral for the 250bn in bailout loans Greece has received since 2010.

They are with the exception of the Acropolis selling everything under the sun, said Anna Asimakopoulou, the shadow minister for development and competitiveness. We are giving up everything.

The multi-bill, which also foresees VAT being raised from 23% to 24%, is part of a package of increases in tax and excise duties expected to yield an extra 1.8bn in revenue. Earlier this month, Tsiprass leftist-led coalition endorsed pension cuts that were similarly part of an array reforms amounting to 5.4 bn, or 3% of GDP.

At the behest of the EU and International Monetary Fund, the government has agreed to adopt tighter austerity in the form of an automatic fiscal brake referred to as the cutter in the Greek media if fiscal targets are missed.

Despite official claims that goals will be achieved, there is a high degree of scepticism as to whether this is feasible. The Greek economy has seen a depression-era contraction of more than 25% since the outbreak of the debt crisis in late 2009, and with high taxes likely to repulse investment, economic fundamentals are also unlikely to improve.

We are talking about indirect taxes, property taxes and income taxes all going up, Asimakopoulou said. Nobody will be able to pay them, targets will be missed, more austerity will be imposed and of course public rage will have to be vented. People will not only feel angry, they will feel conned.

The measures the ultimate U-turn for a government that once pledged to eradicate austerity are the latest in a set of prior actions Athens must take to complete an economic review that will unlock desperately needed bailout funds to avert default. The country has to meet 3.5bn in debt repayments this summer, starting with a 300m loan instalment to the IMF on 7 June money the country simply does not have.

Eager to avoid more drama before next months in/out EU referendum in the UK, general elections in Spain and regional polls in Germany, lenders have indicated they will disburse the loans at Tuesdays Eurogroup meeting. Berlin, which has provided the bulk of Greeces emergency aid, signalled the instalment could be as much as 11bn more than twice the original 5.4bn, according to the German financial daily Handelsblatt.

But creditors are still fiercely divided over the red-button issue of tackling Athens staggering 321bn mountain of debt. Although the EU and IMF now both concede the load is unsustainable, member states reject outright the prospect of a debt writedown for fear of losses on bailout loans. Euro finance ministers insist that if it is ever to recover, Greece has to achieve a primary budget surplus of 3.5%, excluding debt repayments. They have hinted that at most, they will agree to discuss debt relief when the countrys current – and third bailout programme expires in 2018.

The quarrel deepened last week when the Washington-based IMF, which has openly questioned Athens ability to achieve such a high surplus, proposed that Greece defer all debt repayments until 2040 and extend its repayment period with maturities that would run through 2080 on a capped interest rate of 1.5%. The standoff is expected to intensify on Tuesday.

Addressing parliament on Sunday, Tsipras insisted it was a huge achievement that Greece had finally succeeded in putting the debt issue on the table. Previous governments had done little more than kowtow to creditors without ever dealing with the source of Athens financial woes, he said.

No other party but the left could pass such measures, said Nikos Athanasiou, who has watched the crisis unfold from the kiosks he runs facing parliament in Syntagma square. If the right were in power Athens would be in flames.

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