Trump's tiny tax bill reveals big losses at his golf resort in Miami

Miami (tca/dpa) - Behind the 750 dollars that Donald Trump owed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2017 looms a much larger number from Miami: 162 million dollars in reported losses at the Trump Doral golf resort.

The New York Times cited both figures in a report Sunday based on tax filings that the president has declined to make public. The article laid out how reported business losses from Trump Organization ventures helped wipe away reported profits from Trump investments, leaving the president paying less in income taxes than it would cost to spend this weekend in a suite at his Doral hotel (834 dollars, with taxes).
The deluge of confidential Trump financials the Times said it obtained bring the latest discouraging look at how one of Miami-Dade's largest hotels has fared under presidential ownership. Trump purchased the 643-room property for 150 million dollars in 2012, when the former Marriott was in bankruptcy.
Massive renovations followed to a property once best known for its Blue Monster PGA Tour golf course. In news reports, the Trump Organization announced 250 million dollars worth of renovations at the Trump National Doral Miami. The Times article said Trump only reported spending 213 million dollars at the property.
According to the tax information the Times said it had obtained, Trump reported the 162 million dollars in losses from Doral through 2018. That's not entirely a cash loss, but includes depreciation - deductions in value of buildings and other assets that the IRS allows to be treated as business expenses.
A Trump lawyer told the Times its financial information was largely incorrect. A representative for the Trump Organization was not available for comment Monday. Trump himself called the Times article "a total fake."
When he launched his presidential campaign promising a crackdown on illegal immigration, the backlash cost the property its spot on the PGA Tour schedule when the spring event moved to Mexico City in 2016. Even so, the Times report included hints of an upside to Trump's campaign in Doral. The article said credit-card revenue there doubled in the summer of 2015 after the real estate mogul joined the race.
Once elected, Trump saw his Doral property falter, according to records the Trump Organization gave Miami-Dade tax authorities in 2018 to justify a lower value on the property. That included occupancy levels and room rates trailing its competitors in Miami-Dade, and profits dropping from 14 million dollars in 2015 to just over 4 million dollars in 2017.
Gregory Rumpel, a veteran commercial broker in Miami who specializes in the lodging market, noted some of the years covered in the Times report were particularly tough for large properties in South Florida. The Zika scare in 2016 "annihilated group business" and Hurricane Irma disrupted the industry in 2017. He also sees how the Trump brand could be an anchor in Miami.
"Our biggest feeder markets are from New York and New Jersey," said Rumpel, managing director of the hotels division for Jones Lang Lasalle. "Last I checked, those were pretty blue states."
The Times report doesn't cover 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic sent Miami-Dade's tourism and lodging sectors into downturns with no comparison in South Florida history. According to county figures, hotel taxes in the Doral area plunged 40 per cent in July compared to results from a year before.
Last year, a Trump consultant scrapped an appeal of a 2019 tax bill before having to submit updated financial documents. Last week, the Trump Organization filed a petition to challenge the Doral property's 1.39 million dollars county tax bill for 2020. County appraisers kept the taxable value flat in 2020 at 78 million dollars for the land that holds the resort buildings. That assessment also doesn't take Covid into account because it's based on the real estate market at the start of 2020.
Appealing tax valuations isn't unusual. The three properties in Miami-Dade with the largest tax bills - the Aventura Mall, Dadeland Mall and the Southeast Financial Center - also filed appeal petitions for 2020 with the county's Value Adjustment Board this month.
According to the Times report, the Trump Doral's financial performance will take on even more importance for the president in the coming years. He personally backed about 421 million dollars in loans and other debts that come due in the next four years. The Trump Doral accounts for 121 million dollars of that obligation - about 30 cents of every dollar owed.

Tuesday, September 29th 2020
By Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald

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