While Trump Touts His Properties as a Measure of Success, His Property Tax Filings Tell a Different Story

Donald Trump and his supporters frequently cite the Republican candidate’s business acumen as one of his major qualifications to be president of the United States. But while Trump publicly touts the valuation of his empire, his property tax documents claim his buildings are worth significantly less than the frontrunner would have you believe.

David Cay Johnston analyzed several of Trump’s buildings, finding that in Trump’s presidential disclosure he valued the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester, New York at $50 million, and indicated he earned $10.3 million on the course in 2015 and 2016. In tax documents, Trump listed the value at a mere $1.35 million—a 97 percent discrepancy.

Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, originally valued at $75 million, was reduced to a $49 million assessment after it was revealed—as one lawyer who worked to secure low tax valuations for the building wrote—“the entire retail space of the building is unleasable.”

Trump has a history of making dishonest financial filings, varying the values of his properties based on who the Republican presidential frontrunner is trying to appeal to, with swings of significantly more than 75 percent. As Johnston points out, while some range in real estate property valuations is to be expected, the range most assessors expect hovers in the single digits, “not 97.3 percent or even 82 percent.”

The discrepancies between Trump’s boasts about his financial success and what he reports for tax purposes are not just a measure of his propensity to bend the truth, they also have implications for other property owners, as Johnston notes. Trump recognized that “the system is easily manipulated to shift the tax burden off grand properties and onto those whose estates are not so well endowed.”

While Trump plays fast and loose with his property valuations, those without access to teams of lawyers and tax experts have little recourse as the tax burden shifts to them, along with the rest of the public.

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