How many Americans make less than $250,000 a year? According to tax statistics, it’s a pretty overwhelming number.
President Barack Obama has been making the most of that statistic as he promotes what he calls the "Buffett Rule."
"Florida, I've told you where I stand," Obama said at a campaign stop in Boca Raton on April 10, 2012. "So now it's time for members of Congress to tell you where they stand. In the next few weeks we're going to vote on something we call the Buffet Rule."
Obama’s proposal is that people who have income of $1 million or more per year should be required to pay a minimum tax rate of 30 percent.
"And if we do that, then it makes it affordable for us to be able to say for those people who make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families do, then your taxes don't go up," Obama said.
Under current law, many high earners pay significantly less than 30 percent if their income comes from investments instead of earnings.
Critics of the Buffett Rule note that it won’t bring in enough income to significantly dent the budget deficit. Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the president wanted the rule to support the principle of tax fairness but conceded getting the rule passed would be an uphill battle in Congress.
Here, we wanted to fact-check Obama’s statement that "98 percent of American families" make less than $250,000 a year.
The White House’s prepared materials on the Buffett Rule included statistics released annually by the Internal Revenue Service that supported the point.
Using statistics from the IRS website, we found that 137,988,219 tax returns out of 140,494,127 -- or 98.2 percent -- reported adjusted gross income of less than $250,000 a year in 2009, the most recent data available.
We rate the claim True.
The White House, Remarks by the President on the Economy, April 10, 2012
The White House, Press gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney, Aboard Air Force One En Route West Palm Beach, Fla., April 10, 2012
Internal Revenue Service, Individual tax statistics, Table 1.4: All Returns: Sources of Income, Adjustments, and Tax Items, 2009, accessed April 10, 2012
PolitiFact, Warren Buffett says the super-rich pay lower tax rates than others, Aug. 18, 2011
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