NEW YORK — 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 suspicions about the former president’s tax practices.
Donald Bender, a partner at Mazars USA LLP who spent years preparing Trump’s personal tax returns, said Trump’s reported losses from 2009 to 2018 included net operating losses from some of the many companies he owns through his Trump organization.
“There have been losses all these years,” said Bender, who was granted immunity to testify at the company’s tax fraud trial in Manhattan.
The brief exchange amounted to a rare public discussion of Trump’s taxes — which the Republican has fought to keep secret — even if there was no obvious connection to the case at hand.
A prosecutor, Susan Hoffinger, briefly questioned Bender about Trump’s taxes on cross-examination, at one point showing him copies of Trump’s tax papers that the Manhattan district attorney’s office had been fighting for three years before going further. went on to other topics.
The Trump Organization, the holding company of Trump’s buildings, golf courses and other assets, has been charged with helping some top executives evade income tax on benefits they received in addition to their salary, including rent-free apartments and luxury cars. If convicted, the company could be fined more than $1 million.
Trump is not charged in the case and is not expected to testify or attend the trial. The company’s former chief of finance testified that he came up with the plan on his own, without Trump or the Trump family knowing. Allen Weisselberg, who testified as part of a plea deal, said the company also benefited because it didn’t have to pay him as much in salary.
Bender’s testimony came on a day filled with legal drama over Trump, including the U.S. Supreme Court clearing the way for Congress to get six-year tax returns for Trump and several of his businesses.
Also Tuesday, the judge in New York Attorney General Letitia James’s civil fraud case against Trump and company set a trial date for October 2023; a federal appeals court heard arguments in the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago documents investigation; and Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, testified before a Georgia grand jury investigating alleged 2020 election interference.
Bender’s testimony about tax loss echoed what The New York Times reported in 2020, when it received a trove of tax returns from Trump. Many of the records reflected huge losses and little or no taxes paid, the newspaper reported at the time.
The Times reported that Trump paid no income taxes in 11 of the 18 years of which the administration was assessed, and that he paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2017, the year he became president. Citing other Trump tax records, 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 then-current law.
Manhattan prosecutors subpoenaed Bender’s company in 2019, seeking access to eight years of Trump’s tax returns and related documents, eventually obtaining them after a protracted legal battle, including two trips to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Beginning in the 1980s, Bender handled tax returns and other financial matters for Trump, the Trump Organization, and hundreds of Trump entities. He also prepared taxes for members of Trump’s family and other corporate executives, including Weisselberg and Weisselberg’s son, who operated a company-run skating rink in Central Park.
Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to evading taxes on $1.7 million worth of perks in exchange for a five-month prison sentence, testified that he sold company-paid perks, such as Manhattan apartments and Mercedes-Benz cars. , hidden from his taxable income by the comptroller, Jeffrey McConney, cutting his salary with the cost of those perks.
Bender testified that Weisselberg kept him in the dark about that arrangement — and that he only found out from prosecutors last year.
But emails shown in court Tuesday suggested McConney was trying to ensnare him as far back as 2013, attaching spreadsheets showing Weisselberg’s pay and discounts for perks, including Trump-paid tuition for his grandchildren’s private school.
Bender, who testified that he received numerous emails from Trump executives every day, said he had no recollection of seeing those messages. If he had, he said, “We would have had a serious conversation about continuing with the customer.”
Mazars USA LLP has since dropped Trump as a client. In February, the company said the financial statements it prepared for it “should no longer be trusted,” after James’s office said the statements regularly misrepresented asset values — an allegation that was central to its lawsuit.
Trump blamed Bender and Mazars for the company’s troubles, writing on his Truth Social platform last week: “The highly paid accounting firm should have routinely picked up on these things — we relied on them. VERY UNFAIR!”
Bender testified that he placed the responsibility on Weisselberg to resolve any issues as oversight of the Trump Organization increased after Trump’s election in 2016, and advised him to stop one questionable practice: the long-standing, tax-cutting habit of the company to pay executive bonuses as freelance income.
The accountant said he told Weisselberg, “If there’s something that’s bothering you, even if there’s the slightest chance, we have to set the highest standards, so basically the company has to be squeaky clean.”
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