Trump returns to false tax claim as he pushes for reform

Michael Walsh
Reporter
President Trump speaks during a meeting with congressional leaders and administration officials on tax reform at the White House Sept. 5. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

As part of a push for tax reform, President Trump bemoaned that the United States is the most heavily taxed nation on earth.

That’s not true.

Trump is traveling to North Dakota to deliver a speech Wednesday afternoon on the importance of streamlining the tax code and easing the burden of taxes on citizens and businesses. In an early morning tweet, he promoted the trip and promised that under his administration the U.S. would no longer be “the highest taxed nation in the world.”


This statement is completely false. According to 2015 data from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), taxation accounted for 26.4 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP). This was lower than the average for the 35 nations in the OECD (34.3 percent) and in some cases far lower than comparable countries (45.5 percent in France, for instance).

In April 2016, the Pew Research Center concluded that U.S. tax bills are below the average for developed nations by examining OECD data dating back to 2001. It calculated “national-level income taxes plus mandatory social-insurance contributions as a percentage of gross income” for four different family types: a single working parent, a single working person without children, a married couple with two children where both parents work, and a married couple with two children where only one parent works. In all cases, the U.S. was below the average.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, listen as President Trump speaks during a meeting with congressional leaders and administration officials on tax reform at the White House Sept. 5. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump has repeatedly touted this false claim. For instance, in a heated exchange with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd in May 2016, Trump said, “We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Our businesses pay more taxes than any businesses in the world. That’s why companies are leaving.” He also repeated the falsehood during debates and speeches.

PolitiFact rated Trump’s claim that the U.S. is “the highest taxed country in the world” as false in February 2016 after a Republican primary debate. The fact-checking website concluded that the U.S. “is far from the most taxed nation in the world, whether it’s an advanced industrialized economy or not.”

The website repeated its assessment on Wednesday after Trump’s tweet.


The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a public-policy think tank, also rated Trump’s claim as false: “Notwithstanding our high corporate tax rate, the U.S. is not close to being the highest-taxed country in the world.”

The corporate income tax rate in the U.S. is high, at 35 percent, but the effective corporate tax rate — after accounting for deductions and tax breaks — is 18.6 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Determining which country has the highest tax rate is complicated and depends on the data researchers examine. Using data from OECD, Investopedia reported that Portugal has the highest tax rate for people with high incomes (61.3 percent); Belgium has the highest level for average-earning single people without children (42 percent); and Turkey has the highest levy for average-earning married couples with two children where only one spouse works (25.8 percent). And according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, Argentina’s total tax rate is an extraordinary 137.3 percent.

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