ProPublica: Trump Organization fudged revenue and occupancy figures on buildings to reduce tax bill for financial gain
President Donald Trump’s real estate business reported different financial figures for two of his Manhattan properties to lenders than to New York tax authorities, according to documents obtained by ProPublica.
The different sets of numbers on expenses, profits and occupancy figures resulted in the two buildings appearing more lucrative to lenders and less so to city officials assessing property taxes, ProPublica found in an investigation published Wednesday. ProPublica obtained the property tax documents through the state of New York’s Freedom of Information Act law and loan records after Trump’s lender sold the debt on the properties, making them public.
The Trump Organization did not respond to questions from ProPublica or CNN.
ProPublica had reviewed the documents for four Trump properties, finding discrepancies involving two of them — 40 Wall Street and the Trump International Hotel and Tower.
Trump has not publicly released his tax returns, claiming that he’s barred from doing so because he’s under IRS audit. Being under IRS audit does not prevent someone from making their tax returns public.
CNN previously reported that Trump believed in 2013 and 2014 that releasing his tax returns as part of a presidential bid would make him look like a smart businessman who had spent years lowering his taxable income, according to two people with firsthand knowledge of conversations at the time.
According to ProPublica, Trump’s company reported to New York City tax officials that it made about $822,000 in 2017 renting out space in the Trump International Hotel and Tower — which Trump owns only a portion of — to two commercial tenants. However, the company told Ladder Capital that it made $1.67 million that same year — more than twice as much reported to tax authorities, ProPublica reported.
ProPublica also found that Trump had given conflicting occupancy figures for 40 Wall Street, recently rebranded as “The Trump Building.”
The Trump Organization told the lender that 40 Wall Street had been 58.9% leased as of December 31, 2012. A few years later, the occupancy level had been raised to 95%. The company reported to tax officials that the building was 81% rented as of January 5, 2013. The figures in the tax and loan reports finally matched up in January 2016, ProPublica noted.
The portrayal of an increase in occupancy and prediction that revenue would surge were critical to helping Trump secure a refinance loan for 40 Wall Street, according to ProPublica.
Experts told ProPublica that there can be legitimate reasons for the differences in tax and loan documents but that the multiple inconsistencies lacked a clear explanation.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump became the first major-party nominee not to release his taxes in more than 30 years.
As President, he has faced numerous legal challenges seeking the release of his tax returns, including from House Democrats and the Manhattan district attorney.
Trump on Friday lost his appeal to stop a House subpoena of his tax documents from his longtime accountant Mazars USA. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit upheld a lower court ruling saying the firm must turn over eight years of accounting records.
Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow said they “are reviewing the opinion and evaluating all appellate options.”
In February, the President’s former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen accused Trump of intentionally inflating assets to get a loan and deflating his net worth to reduce his real estate taxes. A lawyer for the Trump Organization declined to comment at the time, but Trump dismissed Cohen’s claims by saying Cohen “lied a lot.”
In 2017, CNN found that Trump had fought the tax assessments of all 12 of his US golf courses except the one in Bedminster, New Jersey. That included his Trump National Golf Course Westchester, which Ossining, New York, said was worth $15.1 million, but which Trump, fighting for a smaller tax bill, argued in court was worth just $1.5 million.
In a 2017 financial disclosure, Trump said the club was worth far more than the $15 million claimed by Ossining.
By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN