Michael Cohen Explains The ‘Real Reason’ Trump Is Hiding His Tax Returns – Forbes
Since the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump has claimed that he cannot release his tax returns because he is under audit. But his former attorney Michael Cohen cast doubt on that excuse Wednesday, when responding to a question about the âreal reasonâ the president refused to make his tax filings public.
âWhat he didnât want,â Cohen testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, âwas to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then heâll end up in an audit and heâll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on.â
Asked whether the president was actually under audit in 2016, Cohen said even he was unsure. âI donât know the answer. I asked for a copy of the audit so that I could use it in terms of my statements to the press, and I was never able to obtain one.â
âI presume that he is not under audit,â Cohen added.
A spokesperson for the presidentâs company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It is no secret that President Trump has tried to avoid taxes for decades. The first time he landed in the pages of Forbes, in 1982, the magazine noted that he got the âbiggest tax abatement everâ for his midtown Manhattan hotel. Four years later, Forbes pointed out his $100 million tax break on Trump Tower. One year after that, amid a skirmish with the New York City mayor involving tax breaks on a third project, Trump called the official a âmoron.â
It is less clear whether Trump broke laws during his years-long crusade to skirt taxes. In an investigation published last year, the New York Times accused Trump of fraud, saying he and his siblings inherited the majority of their fatherâs real estate business in 1997 and claimed on tax filings that the holdings were worth only $41 million. According to the newspaper, the properties ended up selling for more than 16 times that amount. By undervaluing them, the Trump family reportedly avoided hundreds of millions in taxes.
A lawyer for Trump called the allegations â100 percent falseâ last year. On Wednesday, Cohen said he did not know whether the report was accurate: âI wasnât there in the 1990s.â
But he did shed light on more recent efforts to cut the presidentâs tax bill by challenging property assessments around the country. Such maneuvers are common in the real estate industry, but Trumpâs stand out as being particularly brazen. In Palm Beach County, Florida, he told officials that one of his golf courses was worth $5 million or less, according to the Washington Post, despite saying in other documents that it was worth over $50 million. âItâs identical to what he did at Trump National Golf Club at Briarcliff Manor,â Cohen said, referring to a New York golf course the president owns. âWhat you do is you deflate the value of the asset and then you put in a request to the tax department for a deduction.â
President Trump is more famous for overstating the value of his assets than understating them. For more than 30 years, he tangled with Forbes over his net worth, claiming he was far richer than he really was. âIt was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes,â Cohen said, âand deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.â