Mayor Michael Bloomberg is again refusing to release his unedited income taxes, but the heavily redacted documents provided Friday by his administration do provide a peek into the lifestyle and giving of one of the world's richest men.
The documents show the billionaire mayor forgave a loan of more than $500,000 to his alma mater Johns Hopkins University last year, and for the second year in a row put at least that much into a trust for his ex-wife. And formerly homeless New Yorkers are apparently now living in homes furnished with more than $44,000 worth of freestanding lacquered cabinets once owned by the mayor, after his philanthropic foundation bought the furniture and then decided to donate it.
Many politicians release their tax returns to the public, but the mayor — who holds an 85 percent stake in the financial services business that carries his name — says that publicizing the exact numbers on his taxes could reveal valuable information to the company's competitors. As in previous years, reporters were allowed to spend a few hours looking at altered copies of the tax forms, in which dollar amounts were replaced with letter codes to reflect general ranges.
But for a man estimated by Forbes to be the 30th richest person in the world and worth $18.1 billion, many lines on the tax return read simply "G'' — which stands for any amount more than $500,000. So while the documents show that he earned at least $4.2 million on investments and declared at least $1 million in losses on investment sales, it's likely the amounts far exceed that.
Still, while the mayor is surrounded by extreme wealth, not everything in his family's life is shiny and new.
One donation captured in the tax forms was that of a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee listed in fair condition that Bloomberg gave to his daughter Emma after her high school graduation. She held onto the vehicle, which was in her father's name, until last year, when it was donated to the American Red Cross. On his taxes, the mayor declared the donation was worth less than $1,000.
After declining last year, the Social Security taxes he paid for an undisclosed number of household staff rose again, to at least $100,000.
Among the papers released Friday by the mayor was a separate financial disclosure report required by the city Conflicts of Interest Board. It lists his investments, along with other major assets and income, with amounts represented by the same general ranges as on the redacted taxes.
After Bloomberg took office in 2002, he was forced by the board to sell at least $45 million in publicly traded stocks in companies that do business with the city, and ended up selling many at a loss.
The board does allow Bloomberg to invest in diversified mutual funds, New York municipal bonds and broad-based, exchange-traded funds. The documents released Friday showed the mayor last year apparently sold off his investments in a number of those broad-based funds. He also employs a company that makes investments for him without revealing the details — in an arrangement similar to a blind trust.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg got into a short-lived tiff with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown after telling developers that he didn't think they would want to go to that upstate city, but it seems Bloomberg himself has some faith in Buffalo's future: He has at least $500,000 invested in Buffalo city bonds.