The District Attorney’s Office of Manhattan has subpoenaed the New York City Tax Commission, a property tax agency. The action is part of its criminal investigation into a company owned by former President Donald Trump. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. will likely analyze property values in the tax filings and loan documents to identify potential fraud.
“The subpoena likely would compel the agency to provide detailed income and expense statements the Trump Organization would have filed as part of an effort to lower tax assessments on some of its commercial properties… Those filings typically would include valuations submitted by the company to challenge the market values assigned to Trump’s property by the city’s tax assessors,” states a Reuters article.
The tax assessment of a property is based on its value determined by New York City’s Department of Finance. Any challenge to such valuations will have to be supported by documents that prove the value is inaccurate. If Vance and his team can find proof of record falsification, Trump might have to face a legal battle. Lawyer Daniel J Horwitz states that even a “material difference” between property value claimed in the loan documents and the values claimed in tax filings is enough to build a case against Trump.
Vance’s office has also issued subpoenas to Ladder Capital Finance LLC and Deutsche Bank AG, two creditors that helped fund Trump’s purchase of real estate properties. It is the only criminal investigation underway of the former president’s real estate business.
New York City suburb governments
Last month, Vance’s office sent subpoenas to New York City suburb governments to investigate an estate Trump owns there. The former president’s 158-acre land donation to a conservation land trust is also under scrutiny. The donation was apparently conducted to qualify for a tax deduction.
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In addition to Vance, New York State Attorney General Letitia James is carrying out a separate civil investigation. She is investigating if Trump incorrectly reported property values to gain tax and economic benefits and raise loans. The Trump Organization has criticized James’ probe, accusing her of “continued harassment.” The investigation has been underway since 2019.
Ice rink issue
The crackdown on Trump’s assets and businesses has been happening since the Jan. 6 Capitol breach. Last month, New York City decided to cut ties with some of Trump’s establishments. One of the decisions involved shutting down two ice skating rinks in Central Park that the Trump Organization operates.
New York City Mayor Democrat Bill de Blasio announced that the ice rinks would be rendered non-operational even though the skating season is not over. De Blasio’s decision attracted widespread criticism.
“This is purely a political stunt that only hurts New Yorkers… Instead of focusing on a dying city which everyone is leaving because of rising crime, high taxes, closed businesses, and totally incompetent leadership, the mayor is painting signs in front of Trump Tower and destroying more jobs along with the only outdoor activity available to children during a pandemic. Why? To get back at a person who sits on the other side of the political aisle and now lives in Florida?” Eric Trump told the New York Post.
After public backlash, the mayor eventually decided to keep the ice rinks open for the rest of the season. The Trump Organization’s leases for the two ice rinks end on Feb. 26. However, the organization’s contract with the city lasts through April.