NEW YORK • On the financial disclosure forms that Mr Donald Trump has pointed to as proof of his tremendous success, no venture looks more gold-plated than his golf resort in Doral, Florida, where he reported revenues of US$50 million (S$69 million) in 2014. That figure accounted for the biggest share of what he described as his income for the year.
But this summer, a considerably different picture emerged in an austere government hearing room in Miami, where Mr Trump's company was challenging the resort's property tax bill. Mr Trump's lawyer handed the magistrate an income and expense statement showing that the gross revenue had indeed been US$50 million. But after paying operating costs, the resort had actually lost US$2.4 million.
Mr Trump has repeatedly held out his financial disclosures as a justification for breaking with tradition and refusing to release his personal tax returns. But an examination of his tax appeals on several properties, and other documents obtained by The New York Times through Freedom of Information requests, shows that what he has reported on those forms is nowhere near a complete picture of his financial state.
The records demonstrate that large portions of those numbers represent cash coming into his businesses before covering costs like mortgage payments, payroll and maintenance.
After expenses, some of his businesses make a fraction of what he reported on his disclosure forms, or actually lose money. In fact, it is virtually impossible to determine from the forms just how much he is earning in any year.
#Crooked Hillary is unfit to serve.
MR DONALD TRUMP, writing on Twitter prior to a campaign rally in Florida on Thursday. He told supporters the controversy over Mrs Clinton's use of a private e-mail server when she was US secretary of state made her unfit for the White House.
Mr Trump appears to have used a provision in federal ethics laws that allows business owners to list gross revenue, as opposed to net income after expenses, on their disclosure forms.
But he does not seem to have completely acknowledged that choice. Rather, he has suggested that the figures on the forms represent money in his pocket.
In news releases, the Trump campaign said "Mr Trump's income" last year was US$362 million, and was more than US$557 million in a form filed this year.
Another seeming cash cow, at least as far as the forms portray it, is 40 Wall Street, an Art Deco office building in Lower Manhattan.
On his financial disclosure forms, Mr Trump listed the income he derived from rents in the building in the highest category on the form - more than US$5 million.
But the income and expense statement that he filed with the New York City Tax Commission to appeal against his property taxes shows that after mortgage payments and other costs, the building produced a cash flow of about US$104,000 in 2014, and a negative cash flow of US$5.5 million in the previous three years.
The recent negative cash flow at two of Mr Trump's premier properties raises possible motivations he may have for not releasing his tax returns: They could show his success is not as he has claimed, or he pays little or nothing in federal taxes.
That could be a continuation of a long trend. An article last month in The Times revealed Mr Trump's 1995 tax records showed a US$916 million loss that could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years.