Accountant testifies that Trump has claimed a decade of huge tax losses

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump reported losses on his tax returns every year for a decade, including nearly $700 million in 2009 and $200 million in 2010, his longtime accountant testified Tuesday, confirming long-held claims Suspicions about the former President’s tax practices.

Donald Bender, a partner at Mazars USA LLP who has spent years preparing Trump’s personal tax returns, said Trump’s reported losses from 2009 through 2018 included net operating losses at some of the many companies he owns through his Trump organization.

“There’s been losses over the years,” said Bender, who was granted immunity to testify at the company’s Manhattan tax lawsuit.

The brief exchange amounted to a rare public discussion of Trump’s taxes, which the Republican struggled to keep secret, though there was no apparent connection to the case at hand.

A prosecutor, Susan Hoffinger, briefly cross-examined Bender about Trump’s taxes and once showed him copies of Trump tax records that Manhattan prosecutors had been fighting to obtain for three years before moving on to other issues.

The Trump Organization, the holding company for Trump’s buildings, golf courses and other assets, is accused helping some top executives avoid income taxes on benefits they receive on top of their salaries, including rent-free housing and luxury cars. If convicted, the company faces a fine of over $1 million.

Trump will not be charged in the case and is not expected to testify or attend the trial. The company’s former chief financial officer testified that he developed the plan himself without Trump or the Trump family knowing. Allen Weisselberg, witness As part of a plea, the company also benefited because it did not have to pay him as much salary.

Bender’s testimony came amid a day of legal drama surrounding Trump, including the US Supreme Court paving the way for Congress to get six years’ worth of tax returns for Trump and some of his companies.

Also on Tuesday, the judge in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud lawsuit against Trump and his company set an October 2023 trial date; A federal appeals court heard arguments in the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago investigation; and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, testified before a Georgia grand jury investigating alleged interference in the 2020 election.

Bender’s tax loss statement mirrored what The New York Times reported in 2020 when it received a plethora of Trump’s tax returns. Many of the records reflected massive losses and little or no taxes paid, the newspaper reported at the time.

The Times reported that Trump did not pay any income taxes in 11 of the 18 years whose records were reviewed and that he only paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2017, the year he became president. Citing other tax records held by Trump, The Times previously reported that he claimed $915.7 million in losses in 1995, which he could have used to avoid future taxes under the law at the time.

Manhattan prosecutors subpoenaed Bender’s firm in 2019 for access to eight years of Trump’s tax returns and related documents, eventually getting them after a lengthy legal battle that included two trips to the US Supreme Court.

Bender handled tax returns and other financial matters for Trump, the Trump Organization, and hundreds of Trump corporations beginning in the 1980s. He also prepared taxes for members of Trump’s family and other company executives, including Weisselberg and Weisselberg’s son, who ran a company-owned ice rink in Central Park.

Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to evading $1.7 million in taxes on extras in exchange for a five-month jail sentence, testified that he paid for extras like Manhattan apartments and Mercedes-Benz Hidden cars from his taxable income by having the company’s Comptroller Jeffrey McConney cut his salary to reflect the cost of those perks.

Bender testified that Weisselberg kept him in the dark about the agreement — and that he only found out about it from prosecutors last year.

But emails shown in court on Tuesday suggested McConney had attempted to loop him back in 2013, with attached spreadsheets detailing Weisselberg’s salary and discounts on extras, including tuition Trump paid for the private school for his grandchildren.

Bender, who testified that he received numerous emails from Trump executives every day, said he didn’t recall seeing those messages. If so, he said, “We would have had a serious discussion about going ahead with the client.”

Mazars USA LLP has since dropped Trump as a client. In February, the company said the financial statements it prepared “should no longer be reliable” after James’ office said the statements routinely misstate the value of assets – a claim at the heart of their lawsuit.

Trump blamed Bender and Mazars for the company’s woes, writing on his Truth Social platform last week: “The highly paid accounting firm should have routinely picked up these things – we relied on them.” VERY UNFAIR!”

Bender testified that as scrutiny of the Trump Organization intensified after Trump’s election in 2016, he put the responsibility on Weisselberg to resolve any issues, and advised him to end a dubious practice: the company’s long-standing, tax-saving habit of paying bonuses for Pay executives as freelance income.

The accountant said he told Weisselberg, “If something bothers you, even if there’s the slightest chance, we have to set the highest standards for the company to be effectively squeaky clean.”

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak and send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/..



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