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New Report Finds Evidence Of Fraud In Trump’s Property Taxes

Fifth Avenue entrance to Trump Tower in New York City.
Fifth Avenue entrance to Trump Tower in New York City. (Photo: Bin im Garten)

“It really feels like there’s two sets of books — it feels like a set of books for the tax guy and a set for the lender.”

A new ProPublica investigation of Trump Organization property tax documents establishes fresh evidence of fraud and support for a claim made by the president’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, during congressional testimony in February.

“It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes,” Cohen testified, “and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.”

The investigation corroborated Cohen’s testimony, finding repeated instances of Trump’s businesses filing different numbers that “made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender — and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax.”

“Trump told the lender that he took in twice as much rent from one building as he reported to tax authorities during the same year, 2017. He also gave conflicting occupancy figures for one of his signature skyscrapers, located at 40 Wall Street,” among other examples, ProPublica reported.

While discrepancies in tax records don’t always involve fraud, ProPublica’s investigators – as well as the dozen tax experts they asked about the documents – found no “legitimate explanations” for the pattern of inconsistencies.

“It really feels like there’s two sets of books — it feels like a set of books for the tax guy and a set for the lender,” Kevin Riordan, a financing expert and real estate professor at Montclair State University who reviewed the records, told ProPublica. “It’s hard to argue numbers. That’s black and white.”

New York property tax law holds that the signatory “affirms the truth of the statements made” and that “false filings are subject to all applicable civil and criminal penalties.” Trump’s former associates Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort are “serving prison time for offenses that include falsifying tax and bank records, some of them related to real estate,” notes ProPublica’s Heather Vogell.

Despite the president’s barricade against the parties subpoenaing his tax returns, a pattern has emerged from earlier investigations into his financial history. Last year, the New York Times found that Trump used “dubious tax schemes” to maintain the $413 million he inherited from his father. A separate Times investigation then found that Trump appeared “to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer” between 1985 and 1994.

While Trump has lost a number of recent court decisions against the parties demanding his tax records, the legal battle pitched by his administration will potentially end up in the Supreme Court, which frequently rules in the president’s favor.

Critics argue Trump’s family has illegally and unconstitutionally profited from maintaining a global real estate empire while he serves as president. The president has spent almost a third of his presidency at his own resorts at taxpayer expense, according to a report by Citizens For Ethics And Responsibility In Washington.

Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a co-owner Citizen Truth.

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