The truth is starting to leak out about Donald Trump as it is being reported that the Republican frontrunner, who claims to be a billionaire, received a tax break that is only available to people who make less than $500,000.
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.
That means whatever his annual income is, it’s less than $500,000. (The state defines income for STAR purposes as federal adjusted gross income minus the taxable amount of total distributions from annuities or individual retirement accounts.) And Trump would have to have declared his New York apartment as his primary residence and sent the state a copy of his federal income-tax return in order to qualify for the $302 tax break.
“It’s strange that a billionaire would apply for a $302 tax benefit and, moreover, that he would take it,” said Martha Stark, a property-tax expert and former New York City finance commissioner who is now a lecturer at Baruch College. A Trump spokeswoman had no immediate comment. By the way, the city finance department checks with New York state tax authorities every year to make sure applicants for the STAR benefit have income under $500,000.
What the tax break suggests is that Trump’s claims of being extraordinarily wealthy are at least in real cash terms a myth. Much of Donald Trump’s wealth comes from his valuation of his own name at $3 billion. Does Trump have lots of money? Sure. Is he as rich as he claims to be? Probably not.
In a presidential campaign, honesty matters. The only consistency in Trump’s campaign has been his willingness to throw truth out the window. It looks like Mitt Romney might have been correct. There is a bombshell in Donald Trump’s tax returns. Trump has built his brand on the illusion of extreme wealth.
If it turns out that Donald Trump isn’t nearly as wealthy as he claims to be, the long-term damage to his brand could be catastrophic. Trump is hiding something, and his property tax break confirms that he is selling tall tale to Republican voters that is far from the truth.