Donald Trump qualifies for a tax break he claims he’s too rich to take

So that‘s why Donald Trump doesn’t want to release his tax returns.

According to the New York business magazine, Crains, Donald Trump has in recent years qualified for a tax break that you’re only eligible to claim if you make less than $500,000 per year.

This would call into question his boasts of being worth over “10 BILLION DOLLARS,” to say the least.

From Crains:

It’s called the STAR program, which stands for the New York State School Tax Relief Program and has been around since 1997. It offers an approximately $300 annual benefit for those who qualify. Hundreds of thousands of New York homeowners get it.

Here’s where it gets interesting for Trump: To be eligible for STAR, a married couple must have annual income of $500,000 or less. One wouldn’t think a guy as rich as Trump claims to be would qualify, but records filed with the city’s Department of Finance show he received a $302 STAR benefit on his latest property-tax bill for his Trump Tower penthouse on Fifth Avenue.

The only way Trump could have qualified for this tax break, according to the state of New York, is if he sent them a copy of his federal income tax return — showing an annual income of less than $500,000 — and declared his Fifth Avenue penthouse as his primary residence. Asked about the $302 that Trump didn’t have to pay in taxes last year, on again/off again campaign manager and crowd enforcer Cory Lewandowski insisted that Trump had received the exemption as a result of an error on the part of New York State. According to Lewandowski, the government just decided out of the blue to send Donald Trump a few hundred bucks that he hadn’t asked for since 2009 — conveniently, the year New York State began checking the incomes of STAR program applicants.

To be clear, wealth and income are two very different things. It is theoretically possible for Trump to have a high income and a stupid high net worth, especially if most of his assets are tied up in real estate. That said, if Trump really is as rich as he says he is, how big of a cheapskate does he have to be, and how aggressively does he have to arrange is finances, in order to go that far out of his way for $300? In relative terms, that’s worth less to a multi-billionaire than a penny on the sidewalk is to the rest of us. When’s the last time you filled out paperwork for a penny?

And lest Trump follows up his claim that New York simply made an error in giving him a tax break he was too rich to qualify for, Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo has you covered:

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

Shortly after Crain’s initial report in March, New York City officials said they believed Trump had received the tax break in error and asked Trump to pay up. But it wasn’t clear that New York City was saying he’d received the tax break in error because of his taxable income on file with the state. It seemed either to be because of his publicly professed wealth or because the Trump Tower apartment may not even have been his primary residence. He’s apparently listed two primary residences in New York City. So, as Crain’s notes, New York City’s statement still suggests that Trump’s income was at some point in the last three years less than $500k.

It is still technically possible that Trump really is as rich, or close to as rich, as he claims. But in order to square being worth TEN BILLION DOLLARS with seeking and qualifying for a $300 tax break for people making less than $500,000 per year, you have to believe some combination of the following things: Donald Trump’s self-professed net worth is orders of magnitude greater than his liquid assets, New York State makes a habit of doling out cash and/or he is the reincarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Or he’s grossly exaggerating his wealth, and that’s why he doesn’t want to let the public take a look at his finances. You decide which of these is the most plausible.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Elizabethjwooley2

    “my room mate Lori Is getting paid on the internet 98$/hr”…..!tn262rtwo days ago grey MacLaren P1 I bought after earning 18,512 Dollars..it was my previous month’s payout..just a little over.17k Dollars Last month..3-5 hours job a day…with weekly payouts..it’s realy the simplest. job I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months. ago. and now making over. hourly 87 Dollars…Learn. More right Here !tn262r:➽:➽:➽➽➽➽ http://GlobalSuperJobsReportsEmploymentsTrainGetPay-Hour$98…. .✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸::::::!tn262r….,..

  • gratuitous

    Perhaps the short-fingered vulgarian’s, uh, portfolio isn’t as big or as grand as he says it is.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The rich, who run both parties, are the enemies of working people.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc0Y9NaOLek

  • goulo

    The sad thing is that the Trump Believers who currently like him because “he’s so rich that he cannot be bribed” would simply change their reasoning to like him, e.g. “he’s not one of those ultrarich elites, rather, he’s just like us ordinary people”.

  • Youngrwarren

    “my room mate Lori Is getting paid on the internet 98$/hr”…..!tn263etwo days ago grey MacLaren P1 I bought after earning 18,512 Dollars..it was my previous month’s payout..just a little over.17k Dollars Last month..3-5 hours job a day…with weekly payouts..it’s realy the simplest. job I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months. ago. and now making over. hourly 87 Dollars…Learn. More right Here !tn263e:➽:➽:➽➽➽➽ http://GlobalSuperJobsReportsEmploymentsExpertsGetPay-Hour$98…. .✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸✸::::::!tn263e….,….

  • Possibly, but Trump seems much more like the kind of guy who’d take $100k as collateral, somehow manage to land a $10m loan and use it to buy a property, then claim that (in his own mind) as being worth $9.9m more than when he started.

    I mean, if your theory made sense, Trump would not have sued that guy a few years back for claiming Trump was probably only worth a couple hundred mil at most. If hiding his wealth was really the important thing, he’d have welcomed someone independently low-balling his net worth.

  • devlzadvocate

    What if the scandal really is he is quite wealthy and like GE, Boeing and Verizon, he found a way to pay no taxes in certain years? He seems to be preparing for the revelation by saying he pays as little as possible. That’s a given. Most people do that without emphasizing it.

  • UrsusArctos

    Billionaire – You He keeps using that word, I do not think it means what you he think it means

  • UrsusArctos

    ^^^
    BeccaM – His ENTIRE modus operandi has been to get others to put up $ so he can leverage it to make himself a pile, and MAYBE wind up in control of development he had little to no money in. As one example, 12-15 years ago he came to the MS Gulf Coast with promises of “the finest casino property evah!”.
    The local honchos walked around with him as he bloviated and did his schtick. It became apparent (even to Mr Trump) that the MS gaming market played with rules which said “if you’re financially solvent, can develop a property, can pass the gaming commission background tests – have at it”. Just DON’T expect the state/county/cities do squat. Um, nope they had to explain to Mr Trump that in this market developers had to pull their weight. They actually had to develop a percentage of non-gaming revenue generating amenities (golf courses, arenas, etc).
    He left shell shocked that the Bubbas weren’t ready to throw money at him for nothing but his name.

  • JaneE

    Even on the tax returns there is income, and then there is taxable income, neither of which has much relation to total net worth. Trump talks as if he has lots of spendable cash, which may or may not be true. If his assets are worth 10 billion, how much income they generate depends on how they are invested. He certainly wouldn’t be the only person burned by real estate in the last decade.

    Trump’s problem is credibility – how much of what he says is hot air? If it turns out that his wealth is largely fictional, the value of the Trump brand becomes nil. That is a business as well as a political problem.

  • I agree.

  • HKAnders

    I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that Trump’s actual net worth is quite small, that he’s extremely heavily leveraged financially.

    I think this is the nasty little secret Trump is trying to hide by withholding his returns.

  • To expand upon what HKAnders points out, if Trump really was worth $10b, this means during those years he earned less than a 0.05% return on his entire fortune. If he’d been a mere billionaire, we’re talking half a percent.

    If, as has been alleged, his net worth is only a hundred million, then we’re talking 5% on that.

    There’s an old saying with many variants, but the usual formula is thus: If you have $100, you have to work hard to keep it. If you have $100 million, you have to be an incompetent idiot to keep it from growing. It would be safe to presume this would be even more so the case if one was worth as much as $10 billion.

    Another thing worth remembering is the nature of Trump’s only truly successful business: Real estate. True, he’s mostly involved in hotels, resorts, and casinos, but it’s still mostly real estate investing. And guess which area of the economy took the biggest hit in the Bush II Great Recession?

    I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that Trump’s actual net worth is quite small, that he’s extremely heavily leveraged financially. While it’s entirely possible he controls substantial properties and amounts of money, when net worth and income are calculated against debt obligations — and thus it’s entirely possible Trump is adamant against releasing those returns because the whole world would learn that Donald J Trump is actually a billionaire in his own narcissistic imagination.

  • HKAnders

    Everything we know about Trump suggests he is not worth nearly as much money as he claims.
    If you, Jon Green, were worth $10 billion, and could manage to earn just 1% a year on the principal, you would have an annual income of $100 million. One-hundred million dollars by itself is a fortune massive enough to keep at least the next two generations of your family living in comfort without having to work a day in their lives.
    And that $100 million would just be the first year. Due to the wonder of compound interest, it would go up each year, and within about eight years, you would have tacked another cool billion onto the original ten. And so on and so on.
    So, if you could earn $100 million a year for doing nothing but watching your money grow at a measly one percent, why would you need to get involved in all the rackets that Trump has spent so much time and energy on over the last several decades. Would you license your name to other blogs that you have nothing to do with producing? Would you stamp your name onto the side of a box of frozen steaks? Would you get involved with a bottom-feeding scam called Green University that rips people off for real estate classes held in hotel ballrooms where the only thing they learn is how to max out their credit cards to buy fringe real estate?
    Why would you do any of that if every year your cash income was literally a generational fortune?
    Why would Donald Trump need to do any of that, along with all the other hustles he uses to keep gas in the jet, if he was really worth $10 billion?
    That, I believe, is at least one of the ugly truths hiding in his tax returns.

  • Trump exaggerate something about himself? Unpossible.

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