Among the many mysteries I’ve been unable to fathom is a deceptively simple one: why don’t Trump voters find his hysterical efforts to hide his taxes suspicious? Don’t they ever wonder what it is he is so determined to hide?
So far, of course, he’s been successful. His lawyers have been able to appeal lower court orders requiring him to turn over his tax returns, his bank says it doesn’t have copies (and if you believe that, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you…), and between the insane tweets and the bizarre behaviors and now the impeachment shenanigans, the issue of the tax returns has receded into the vast pile of venality labeled “and other stuff.”
But thanks to Pro Publica, we now have at least a partial answer. It’s not surprising, but it sure does explain why he wanted to keep the information hidden.
Documents obtained by ProPublica show stark differences in how Donald Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender — and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax.
For instance, 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.
Lenders like to see a rising occupancy level as a sign of what they call “leasing momentum.” Sure enough, the company told a lender that 40 Wall Street had been 58.9% leased on Dec. 31, 2012, and then rose to 95% a few years later. The company told tax officials the building was 81% rented as of Jan. 5, 2013.
When tax experts were shown the discrepancies, they dismissed the possibility that they were careless errors; they agreed the inconsistencies were properly characterized as tax fraud.
New York City’s property tax forms state that the person signing them “affirms the truth of the statements made” and that “false filings are subject to all applicable civil and criminal penalties.”…
ProPublica obtained the property tax documents using New York’s Freedom of Information Law. The documents were public because Trump appealed his property tax bill for the buildings every year for nine years in a row, the extent of the available records. We compared the tax records with loan records that became public when Trump’s lender, Ladder Capital, sold the debt on his properties as part of mortgage-backed securities.
ProPublica reviewed records for four properties: 40 Wall Street, the Trump International Hotel and Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas and Trump Tower. Discrepancies involving two of them — 40 Wall Street and the Trump International Hotel and Tower — stood out.
One expert who was asked to look at the returns said the numbers suggested the company had kept two sets of books–one for lenders, another for tax authorities.
Taxes have long been a third rail for Trump. Long before he famously declined to make his personal returns public, a New York Times investigation concluded, Trump participated in tax schemes that involved “outright fraud,” and that he had formulated “a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns.” Trump’s former partners in Panama claimed in a lawsuit, which is ongoing, that Trump’s hotel management company failed to pay taxes on millions in fees it received. Spokespeople for Trump and his company have denied any tax improprieties in the past.
In February, Cohen told Congress that Trump had adjusted figures up or down, as necessary, to obtain loans and avoid taxes. “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.”
Most Trump voters, of course, lack the resources to play these games. They have to pay what they owe. One would think they might resent it when rich people lie to evade taxes–but then, it’s widely known that Trump routinely stiffs vendors and contractors, and his base doesn’t seem to care. (As long as he hates the same people they do…)
What was that Trump line? “When you’re a star, they let you do it.” A star! I guess the delusional self-image that supposedly entitles him to grab women’s genitals tells him he’s also entitled to cheat on his taxes.
Evidently, the people who think gold toilets are classy think tax fraud is smart…..