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Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin August 26, 2016

Trump's False claim Hillary Clinton wants to raise taxes on African-American businesses 50 percent

Donald Trump’s newfound focus on black voters collided with a prior talking point on Hillary Clinton’s tax plan during a speech at a New Hampshire rally. But in the process he made an already inaccurate argument even more wrong.

The GOP presidential candidate attacked Clinton on several fronts Aug. 25 in Manchester, including over alleged elements of her tax plan.

"She wants to raise taxes on African-American owned businesses to as much as nearly 50 percent more than they're paying now," Trump said.

Trump’s campaign did not respond to our requests to show us how Clinton’s tax targets black business owners with close to a 50-percent tax increase. It appears Trump’s penchant for going off-script further undermined his own attack.

Wrong about rates

Let’s acknowledge immediately that Trump’s focus on African-Americans, as if Clinton planned to tax them as some vindictive measure against black-owned businesses, is misleading.

Trump has been attempting to woo black voters lately, so he likely was trying to present his point about taxation in a way that resonated with African Americans. But it comes across as Clinton targeting blacks in a way that would not apply in the tax code. There’s nothing in her tax plan that spotlights the country’s 2.6 million or so black-owned businesses in such a way.

"The tax code is race neutral. Nothing targets — or gives preference to — anyone based on race," said Roberton Williams, a fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. "Whether a provision disproportionately affects people of one race relative to those of another race depends on particular situations but isn't based on race."

We have an idea what Trump was trying to say. Earlier this month, he told a Detroit crowd on Aug. 8 that Clinton "would tax many small businesses by almost 50 percent." We rated this statement Mostly False in a previous fact-check.

The Trump campaign told us then that his earlier statement referred to a 4 percent surcharge Clinton has proposed on high earners. Using an analysis of Clinton’s plan from the Tax Policy Center, the campaign pointed out the top tax rate is currently 39.6 percent. A business owner also could potentially be paying 3.8 percent in Medicare taxes, reaching a rate of 43.4 percent.

Add the 4 percent surcharge on top of that and you reach 47.4 percent. That was the "nearly 50 percent" part.

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Except it’s not as simple as that. Clinton's proposed 4 percent tax increase only applies to taxpayers who have an adjusted gross income of over $5 million, and only income in excess of $5 million would be taxed at that extra 4 percent.

That’s not a lot of business owners. Only about 0.5 percent of all small businesses in the nation reported a profit of more than $1 million in 2011, according to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis. Overall, only a bit more than 34,000 of the 150 million or so tax returns filed in 2013 reported income of more than $5 million. That's an even smaller fraction — about 0.02 percent of all earners.

But Trump made it worse for himself in this new description. The prepared remarks for his speech read, "She wants to raise taxes on African-American owned businesses to as much as nearly 50 percent." This is important to note, because he then ad-libs and changes the meaning of the sentence by adding "more than they're paying now."

That means instead of saying they will be taxed at 50 percent, they will be taxed at a rate almost 50 percent higher than they are currently. That’s a different assertion.

Experts told us it’s difficult to find anything in Clinton’s plan that telegraphs such a hefty increase.

Leonard Burman, director at the Tax Policy Center, said the effective tax rate for the highest-earning self-employed people would only go up by about 7 percent. If Trump were referring to corporations, which are affected by the rise in tax rates on capital gains and dividends, the marginal effective tax rate on new corporate investment would still go up by less than 10 percent.

Williams further noted that Clinton’s proposed "Buffett Rule" requiring people with income greater than $1 million to pay a minimum 30 percent tax rate could theoretically boost a person’s tax by more than 50 percent. But the conditions would have to be specific, so that result probably wouldn’t bump tax rates on business income by 50 percent. Her proposed 28 percent cap on the value of tax preferences — think credits, deductions, exemptions and so forth — also doesn’t appear likely to produce such a dramatic change.

"There might be an odd case in which that would boost taxes a lot but nothing pops into my brain," Williams said. He added that it’s difficult to be certain absolutely no one would face such an increase, but "it doesn't look like any of (Clinton’s) plans could increase a person's tax bill by half."

Our ruling

Trump said Clinton "wants to raise taxes on African-American owned businesses to as much as nearly 50 percent more than they're paying now."

Putting aside the irrelevance of the comment about African-Americans, the campaign never specified exactly how Clinton’s tax plan would do that to anyone. Clinton has proposed some tax increases on higher earners, but barring an extremely unusual case, nothing she has proposed approaches boosting taxes by almost 50 percent.

We rate the statement False.

Our Sources

Donald Trump, Manchester, N.H., speech, Aug. 25, 2016

U.S. Treasury Department Office of Tax Analysis, "Methodology to Identify Small Businesses and Their Owners," August 2011

U.S. Census Bureau, "Women are Leading the Rise of Black-Owned Businesses," Feb. 26, 2016

Tax Policy Center, "An Analysis of Hillary Clinton’s Tax Proposals," March 3, 2016

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump wrongly says Hillary Clinton wants to raise taxes on the middle class," Aug. 5, 2016

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton plan would tax small businesses at nearly 50 percent," Aug. 10, 2016

Wall Street Journal, "The Potential Pros and Cons of Clinton’s Small Business Standard Tax Deduction," Aug. 23, 2016

Time, "Donald Trump: Black Voters Are a ‘Focal Point’ of Campaign," Aug. 25, 2016

Heavy, "Full Transcript of Donald Trump Speech in Manchester, New Hampshire," Aug. 25, 2016

Interview with Josh Schwerin, Clinton spokesman, Aug. 26, 2016

Interview with Roberton Williams, Tax Policy Center fellow, Aug. 26, 2016

Interview with Leonard Burman, Tax Policy Center director, Aug. 26, 2016

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Trump's False claim Hillary Clinton wants to raise taxes on African-American businesses 50 percent

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