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Fact check: Ad featuring Biden quote on tax raises misses context of remark

A digital advertisement from America First Action, a SuperPAC promoting President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy agenda ( www.a1apac.org/ ), shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden saying, “If you elect me… your taxes are gonna be raised, not cut.” Though this clip is authentic, it has been taken out of context to suggest that the former vice president has said he plans to raise taxes for all Americans rather than those earning more than $400,000 a year.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Posts sharing this advertisement can be found here here , here , and here here .

Launched three months before the Nov. 3 General Election, the televised portion of the ad campaign began airing in the key swing states of Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania on Aug. 4 ( here ).

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit, nonpartisan thinktank that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on elections and public policy ( www.opensecrets.org/about/ ), the SuperPAC has spent over $33 million on advertisements ($26,217,067 on broadcast ads and $7,020,586 on web ads) during the 2020 election cycle ( here ).

The clip shown in the advertisement comes from a campaign rally in Conway, South Carolina on Feb. 27, two days before the state’s Democratic primary. At the 10:50 mark in this footage here from local NBC affiliate WCNC, Biden asks the audience, “How many of you did really well with that $1.9 trillion tax cut?” When one person off-camera raises their hand, he says, “Well that’s good… but guess what? If you elect me your taxes are gonna be raised, not cut… if you benefited from that.”

The former vice president was referring to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), advocated by the Trump administration and passed by Republican lawmakers in late 2017. In the largest change to U.S. tax laws since the 1980s, Republicans plan to add $1.9 trillion over 10 years to the $20 trillion national debt to finance changes that they say would further boost an already growing economy ( here , here ). Democrats, on the other hand, have portrayed the tax overhaul as a giveaway to the rich and corporations that would balloon the federal deficit ( here ).

The overhaul notably reduced the top individual income tax rate to 37% from 39.6% and slashed the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% ( here ).

As explained in analyses by the Tax Policy Center ( here ) and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget ( here), another public policy think tank in the U.S. capital, the Biden campaign calls for increased income and Social Security payroll taxes for those earning over $400,000 a year.  

Biden has criticized the 2017 tax cuts as giving too many benefits to the wealthy and to corporations. As president, Biden says he would roll back the income tax reductions of Trump’s overhaul only for individuals with annual incomes above $400,000 and subject wages above $400,000 to the same 12.4% Social Security payroll tax that is currently only taxable for incomes up to $137,700 ( here , here ). He would also increase the top corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28% (still 7 percentage points lower than the pre- TCJA rate) and impose a 15% minimum tax on companies’ book income ( here ).

As explained by the Tax Policy Center, “the proposals would increase taxes on average on all income groups” in 2021, “but the highest-income households would see substantially larger increases, both in dollar amounts and as a share of their incomes” ( see Table 2 here ).

Under Biden’s tax plan, “almost 93% of the tax increases would be borne by taxpayers in the top quintile of the income distribution.” Households in the top 1% of the income distribution (those making over $837,000 a year) would see their taxes raised by $299,000 on average, amounting to 17% percent of after-tax income. Meanwhile, Americans in the middle-income quintile (earning between $52,000 and $93,000 annually) would see an average tax increase of $260, or 0.4% of after-tax income. Taxpayers in the bottom quintile (earning less than $26,000 a year) would experience an average tax increase of $30, or 0.2% of after-tax income.

VERDICT

Missing context. When Biden told someone at a campaign rally that their taxes would go up if he were elected, he was referring to an individual who benefitted from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), not the US taxpayers as a whole. Under Biden’s tax plan, taxpayers in middle- and lower-income quintiles would experience only marginal tax increases in 2021, but 93% of the tax increases would be borne by those making over $837,000 a year.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here .  

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