Former US President and presidential candidate Donald Trump (C) participates in the first debate of the 2024 elections with US President Joe Biden at CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024 ( AFP / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

Trump falsely claims at debate Biden wants to quadruple taxes

Former US president and White House hopeful Donald Trump claimed during the first 2024 debate with Joe Biden that the Democratic president wants to hike every American's taxes by a factor of four. This is false; Biden has called for nothing of the sort, but has instead said for years he would not raise income taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 annually -- a promise his latest budget proposals reflect.

"He wants to raise your taxes by four times," Trump said during the June 27, 2024 showdown hosted by CNN. "He wants to raise everybody's taxes by four times."

Trump's attack came as the two sparred over the economy, with the Republican businessman assailing Biden over rising prices and the cost of living, two key issues ahead of November's contest.

But the claim that Biden plans to quadruple Americans' taxes is inaccurate -- one of several falsehoods Trump hurled at his successor throughout the night.

"The factor of four is obviously false," said Gordon Mermin, a principal research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (archived here).

Biden's adjustments to the US tax code since taking office have included signing a law setting a new minimum 15 percent tax for corporations and expanding the child tax credit.

But the Democrat campaigned in 2020 on a pledge that he would not raise taxes for people earning below $400,000 per year -- the vast majority of Americans -- and his latest budget proposal for the 2025 fiscal year, released in March, honors that (archived here and here).

An independent analysis from the Tax Foundation estimated that Biden's proposals would amount to a gross tax increase worth about $4.4 trillion over 10 years -- although various tax credits would offset some of the change, said Garrett Watson, senior policy analyst and modeling manager at the think tank (archived here and here).

The Congressional Budget Office projects, meanwhile, that if current tax and spending laws remain unchanged, the United States will bring in about $62.6 trillion in taxes over the same 10-year window (archived here).

"So, the tax hike would potentially increase collections by about 7 percent on a gross basis over that time," Watson said.

Multiplying taxes by four, as Trump claimed, would mean a 300 percent increase.

A focus on the top earners

"Biden's tax proposals target high earners with income over $400,000 and corporations, so the tax changes would be higher for the top 1 percent of earners," Watson told AFP. "But even for that group, while they may see a substantial tax hike relative to current law, it would not quadruple their tax liability compared to current law."

John Ricco, associate director of policy analysis at Yale University's Budget Lab, agreed (archived here).

"Biden has not proposed quadrupling everybody's taxes," Ricco said. "For about 99 percent of families, something closer to the opposite is true: in his latest budget proposal, he proposes an extension of Trump's individual tax cuts -- which expire at the end of next year -- for those making less than $400,000 a year. These are tax cuts, not tax increases, let alone tax increases of four times."

Mermin, from the Tax Policy Center, said that almost all the tax increases in Biden's prior budget proposals have also targeted the highest income levels.

A Tax Policy Center analysis of Biden's 2024 fiscal year proposal found that taxpayers earning up to $60,400 -- the bottom 40 percent of earners -- would see their federal taxes drop on average compared with under current law (archived here).

The analysis suggested a modest economic impact -- which some describe as an "indirect" tax increase -- on a wider range of earners, resulting from potential shifts to prices, future wages and investments. This would amount to $20 per year on average for those earning between $60,400 and $107,300, and $470 for those making between $107,300 and $194,800.

"The small tax increases at middle income levels are due to indirect effects of raising taxes on businesses," Mermin said, adding that the effects of Biden's latest budget would be similar.

Among other changes, Biden is calling for bumping the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, up from its current 21 percent. This would follow the 2017 law signed by Trump that cut the rate from 35 percent while making other modifications.

Stock buybacks

There is one tax Biden has suggested quadrupling, Watson said: the current 1 percent tax on stock buybacks for certain corporations.

Biden's 2025 fiscal year budget proposal advocates for "quadrupling the stock buybacks tax," raising it to 4 percent.

"But that is just one tax, far from the entirety of Biden's tax plan or four times the current amount of tax collected," Watson told AFP.

AFP has debunked other claims about the US election here.

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