- Newly uncovered tax documents from President Donald Trump that were obtained by ProPublica contain several inconsistencies that could point to financial fraud.
- The discrepancies in the numbers made some Trump properties look more valuable to lenders and less valuable to tax authorities, ProPublica said.
- At least one of the filings was made after Trump took office in 2017.
- The public may soon get a window into the president’s closely held financial records after two separate court rulings ordered Trump to turn over years of tax returns to Congress and to New York prosecutors.
- An employee at the IRS also recently blew the whistle on “inappropriate efforts to influence” the agency’s audit of Trump’s taxes.
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The documents obtained by ProPublica were part of records for four Trump properties in New York City: Trump International Hotel and Tower, 40 Wall Street, Trump Tower, and 1290 Avenue of the Americas.
Tax records for 40 Wall Street and the Trump International Hotel and Tower reportedly contained discrepancies that could raise some red flags – specifically, the numbers made the properties look more valuable to lenders and less valuable to tax authorities, ProPublica said.
In one instance in 2017, according to ProPublica, Trump told a lender that he got twice as much rent from one building as he reported to tax authorities that year.
Nancy Wallace, a professor of finance and real estate at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley, told the outlet she couldn’t see why there were inconsistencies in the first place, adding that they looked like “versions of fraud.”
Trump has been at the centre of several financial scandals.The New York Times reported last year that Trump used a series of dubious tax schemes to shield a $US400 million inheritance from the IRS.
And in September, Mother Jones published an investigation that found that Trump might have fabricated a loan to avoid paying $US50 million in income taxes.
But Trump has long maintained that he has committed no financial or tax crimes. He has said he can’t release his tax returns because they are under audit, even though there is no rule to prevent him from doing so.
But the president may soon be forced to give his tax returns to investigators. On October 7, US District Judge Victor Marrero ordered Trump to turn over eight years of his tax returns to New York prosecutors investigating whether he violated state laws by fabricating business records.
Days later, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered the president to turn over the past eight years of his tax returns to the House Oversight Committee, saying lawmakers have the right to see the documents.
Trump’s lawyers have said they will fight both decisions and take them to the Supreme Court if they have to.
But the public may still get a window into the president’s closely held financial documents thanks to an employee at the IRS who recently blew the whistle on “inappropriate efforts to influence” the agency’s audit of Trump’s tax returns.
There aren’t many government officials who have access to the president’s and vice president’s tax documents, Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Justice Department, told Insider.
“The president’s and vice president’s tax returns are kept in a top-secret vault,” Cramer said. “It’s code-word-protected, the whole nine yards, and not just anyone can get in there. There are very few people – the head of the Treasury, the head of the IRS – who have access.”
Trump was also accused of altering his tax and loan records by Michael Cohen, his longtime former lawyer who is serving a three-year federal prison sentence for campaign-finance violations and tax evasion.
In particular, Cohen accused Trump of inflating and deflating his loan and tax documents, respectively – an allegation that appears to bear similarities to what ProPublica reported this week.
Kevin Riordan, a financing expert and real-estate professor at Montclair State University who reviewed the newly revealed tax records, told ProPublica that “it really feels like there’s two sets of books,” one for lenders and one for tax investigators.
“It’s hard to argue numbers,” Riordan said. “That’s black and white.”