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2021-02-22 — nytimes.com

The United States Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., to obtain eight years of Mr. Trump's federal income tax returns and other records from his accountants. The decision capped a long-running legal battle over prosecutors' access to the information.

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Among other things, the [NY Times-leaked] records revealed that Mr. Trump had paid just $750 in federal income taxes in his first year as president and no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years. They also showed he had written off $26 million in "consulting fees" as a business expense between 2010 and 2018, some of which appear to have been paid to his older daughter, Ivanka Trump, while she was a salaried employee of the Trump Organization.

The legitimacy of the fees, which reduced Mr. Trump's taxable income, has since become a subject of Mr. Vance's investigation, as well as a separate civil inquiry by Letitia James, the New York attorney general. Ms. James and Mr. Vance are Democrats, and Mr. Trump has sought to portray the multiple inquiries as politically motivated, while denying any wrongdoing.

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The tax returns represent a self-reported accounting of revenues and expenses, and often lack the specificity required to know, for instance, if legal costs related to hush-money payments were claimed as a tax write-off, or if money from Russia ever moved through Mr. Trump's bank accounts. The absence of that level of detail underscores the potential value of other records that Mr. Vance won access to with Monday's Supreme Court decision.

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More broadly, the tax records showed how the public disclosures he filed as a candidate and then as president offered a distorted view of his overall finances by reporting glowing numbers for his golf courses, hotels and other businesses based on the gross revenues they collected each year. The actual bottom line, after losses and expenses, was much gloomier: In 2018, while Mr. Trump's public filings showed $434.9 million in revenue, his tax returns declared a total of $47.4 million in losses.

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