Tax records relating to President Trump's businesses are notoriously tough to access—but ProPublica managed to get its hands on some and sees "major inconsistencies." As Heather Vogell writes, ProPublica obtained property tax documents for four of the Trump Organization's NYC properties (they were public because Trump appealed their associated tax bills) and compared them with loan documents (these were public because they were refinanced in 2015 and 2016, and the lender sold the debt on them). Of the four, 40 Wall Street and the Trump International Hotel and Tower had head-scratching discrepancies between the tax and loan documents, the upshot of which is that the buildings looked rosier to the lender and less successful to property tax officials.
- 40 Wall Street: The standout figures relate to occupancy. ProPublica explains the building was stuck charging below-market rents in the years after 9/11. "Trump’s representatives needed to demonstrate signs of the building’s financial health if they wanted a new loan with a lower interest rate." They apparently did this by citing figures showing the building was 58.9% occupied on Dec. 31, 2012, but, years later, had hit 95%. The rent surge hadn't yet been realized, they explained, due to free-rent lease deals, but they projected it would come in 2015. As of 2018, profits have remained below expectations. The tax documents state the building was 81% leased as of Jan. 5, 2013.
- Trump International Hotel and Tower: Loan officials were told the commercial space rented out in 2017 brought in $1.67 million; tax documents put that figure at $822,000. That was one of 8 years of data ProPublica had. It reports the figures given to tax officials were on average 81% of what was stated to the lender.
- So what does all this mean? The dozen real estate professionals ProPublica spoke with said there can be valid reasons for such discrepancies, but these particularly discrepancies struck some of them as odd. One expert's take: They're "versions of fraud."
- Not so fast: New York Magazine points to a Twitter thread by legal expert Renato Mariotti, who read the article and writes the discrepancies "are troubling and merit investigation ... but if lawyers or 'legal experts' tell you that these discrepancies in and of themselves prove bank fraud or tax charges, they are misleading you." Read his whole thread for a solid explainer of what is needed to prove tax or bank fraud.
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