Lessons From Trump Tower’s Property Tax Saga

Until recently, Cook County officials believed that GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump had a $4.7 million property tax delinquency (including penalties and interest) on his famous namesake tower in Chicago.

But Cook County was wrong. The assessor incorrectly calculated Trump’s property taxes in 2010, which caused the faux delinquency.

That year (by law), Trump Tower’s property assessment was split—meaning that hotel rooms would be assessed separately from condo/retail areas and, due to efforts on the part of City Councilman Ed Burke (14th), who argued that the still-under-construction, uninhabited building should not be fully taxed, the real estate mogul received a last-minute 70% cut to the property tax assessment on Trump International Hotel and Tower. In the spirit of transparency, we feel obligated to let the readers know that Burke owns a tax firm that has saved Trump $14.1 million through property taxes and tax appeals from 2009-2015.

Trump received the two discounted tax bills in 2010 and paid them in full, but it was only recorded that he paid taxes on one of the bills—the one for residential, not retail space. Despite both tax bills being paid, Cook County believed him to be missing payments.

A year later, in 2011, Cook County refunded Trump $23,649, despite the fact that their books still showed him owning the county from the 2010 delinquency. Cook County is currently pursuing Trump for repayment.

The dishevelment of Trump’s taxes over the last few years shows the complexities of property tax systems, particularly those in Cook County. It also demonstrates the importance of always checking the assessor’s math when it comes to property taxes.

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