True or False?
Is the United States Really the ‘Highest Taxed Nation,’ as Trump Says?
Donald Trump often claims that Americans, and businesses especially, pay more taxes than anyone in the world. PunditFact takes on that claim, as well as another on voter registration.
By Lauren Carroll and Linda Qiu
Donald Trump did little to heal the rift with Republican Party leaders in interviews on the Sunday shows, calling Mitt Romney “ungrateful” for Trump’s 2012 support and suggesting he would be open to removing Paul Ryan as convention chair if Ryan ultimately fails to endorse him.
As speaker of the House, Ryan is also the party’s convention chair. Last week, Ryan said he couldn’t yet support Trump’s nomination.
Trump also continued to make the case that his win as the presumptive nominee came despite a primary process that was rigged against him.
Trump has complained repeatedly about election problems, so NBC host Chuck Todd of Meet the Press asked Trump if he supports policies that make it easier for people to vote, such as same-day voter registration.
Trump said no.
“No, no,” Trump said. “I don’t think people should sneak in through the cracks. And whether that’s an ID or any way you want to do it. But you have to be a citizen to vote.”
“Well, of course,” Todd replied. “That is the law as it stands already.”
Trump disagreed: “No, it’s not. I mean, you have places where people just walk in and vote.”
Trump’s claim that noncitizens could “just walk in and vote” rates False.
In most states, people have to register to vote well in advance of Election Day. But 15 states and the District of Columbia have or are about to have same-day voter registration.
Election experts told us the states put safeguards in place to verify identity, even with same-day registration.
“It’s not that you can just show up and vote—you have to register and provide necessary ID,” said Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida.
The specifics vary by state because each state makes its own election laws. For example, some, but not all, states have an electronic database that they can use to check a same-day registrant’s eligibility on the spot. Others, like Iowa and New Hampshire, send a mailer to all same-day registrants, and if the card is returned as undeliverable, the state will investigate the case as potential election fraud.
But the bottom line is that states strive to hold everyone to the same level of scrutiny in terms of identity verification.
“For presidential elections, all states require voters to be U.S. citizens, and there is nothing inherent about same-day registration that would make it easier for noncitizens to vote,” said Joshua Douglas, a professor of election law at the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Every expert we asked told us that there are anecdotal examples of noncitizens voting in federal elections, but it’s rare. And there isn’t any evidence that it’s more prevalent in the states with Election Day registration.
Is the U.S. the highest taxed nation in the world?
Trump released a tax plan in September that would give big tax cuts to the top 0.1 percent and bloat the deficit by at least $10 trillion over the next decade. But Trump said this week he’s considering raising taxes on the rich.
“Should we assume that most of your plans, then, we shouldn’t take you at your words, as sort of that they’re floors?” Todd asked Trump.
“It is called life, Chuck. It’s not my word, of course. I put in a proposal. You know what they are? They’re really proposals. People can say it’s a tax plan. It’s really a tax proposal. Because after I put it in, and I think you know the Senate and Congress, you know as much as anybody, they start working with you and they start fighting,” Trump responded. “But I’m not under the illusion that that it’s going to pass. They’re going to come to me. They’re going to want to raise it for the rich more than anybody else.”
He then explained why, despite that, he’s still sticking to his guns and giving “a massive” tax cut to businesses: “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.”
When we looked at this claim in the past, we compared the United States to the 33 other industrialized nations in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Data from 2014, the most recent year available, shows that the United States wasn’t the most highly taxed by the typical metrics and actually places near the bottom or around the middle of the pack.
Trump specified this time that he was talking about business taxes, but the essential data doesn’t back him there, either.
Trump would have been more accurate if he had been more specific. The United States does have one of the highest top marginal corporate tax rates in the world. However, companies pay less in practice because they can take deductions and exclusions. When we look at the actual tax burden on U.S. companies, it’s far from highest in the world.
On overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP, the United States is 31st. (Denmark is first.) On corporate tax revenue as a percentage of GDP, the United States is 17th. (Norway is first.)
The World Bank’s data for 2012—the last year for which it has complete figures—also placed the United States near the bottom in tax revenue as a percentage of GDP. Nations with lower percentages were Japan and Spain, a couple of oil-rich countries (Oman and Kuwait), and a few impoverished states (like Afghanistan and the Central African Republic).
We also looked at a 2016 report by the World Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers that assessed the total tax burden for a case study company in different places around the world. The total tax rate—which includes not only income taxes but also labor taxes, property taxes, profit taxes, etc.—is expressed as a percentage over the total profit.
By this metric, the company would have a total tax rate of 43.9 percent in the United States, placing it at No. 64 out of 189 countries.
That’s lower than the rates the company would have paid in the two countries Trump says the United States loses to, China (67.8 percent) and Mexico (51.7 percent). Moreover, it’s nowhere near the top.
Read the full fact-checks at PunditFact.com.