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Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign event at Riverside High School in Durham, N.C., on Oct. 18, 2020. (AP/Kaster) Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign event at Riverside High School in Durham, N.C., on Oct. 18, 2020. (AP/Kaster)

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign event at Riverside High School in Durham, N.C., on Oct. 18, 2020. (AP/Kaster)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy October 21, 2020

Trump campaign ad takes Biden out of context three times on taxes

If Your Time is short

  • A Trump campaign ad takes Joe Biden’s words out of context three times, editing them in each case to give a misleading impression of what he said.

  • Biden’s tax plan does not call for direct tax increases on anyone earning below $400,000 per year. Corporations and the highest earners would be hit hardest.

An ad from President Donald Trump’s campaign takes former Vice President Joe Biden out of context three times, falsely claiming that Biden repeatedly told voters he plans to raise their taxes.

The 30-second ad deceptively edits remarks that Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, made at separate campaign events in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio, omitting critical context in each case that would leave a different impression about what he said.

"An economy in ruins," the ad concludes. "That's what Joe Biden's tax increase means for you."

The ad ran on TV as recently as Oct. 21. It resembles a similar spot released Sept. 16, which also cut Biden’s South Carolina remarks out of context and made claims about his tax plan. 

But Biden and his campaign have been clear throughout the campaign that he intends to focus any direct tax increases on the wealthiest people and corporations.

Biden has repeatedly pledged to avoid raising taxes on Americans earning less than $400,000 per year. Independent tax analysts who assessed Biden’s plan in the spring and summer of 2020 agreed that it does not call for direct tax increases on anyone below that threshold.

Some lower earners could see small hits to their after-tax incomes due to the indirect effects of Biden’s proposed increase to the corporate tax rate, the early tax analyses said. But the highest earners and corporations would be hit hardest under Biden’s proposals, which include:

  • Increasing the top corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.

  • Raising the top federal marginal income tax rate for individuals to 39.6%.

  • Placing a 12.4% Social Security payroll tax on incomes above $400,000.

  • Taxing capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income for very high earners.

Several of the same tax groups have since updated their analyses to incorporate a number of tax credits Biden has proposed that would target middle-class and lower earners. 

The updated reports from the Tax Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Tax Policy Center and Penn Wharton Budget Model show Biden’s plan bringing in smaller overall tax revenues, because of the tax credits, than original estimates assumed

The updated analyses also show the tax credits offsetting the indirect effects facing lower earners as a result of the increased corporate tax rate in the first year under Biden’s plan. 

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

The Trump ad distorts what Biden was saying

Here’s a look at how the ad presents Biden’s words out of context:

Featured Fact-check

How the ad quotes Biden: "If you elect me, your taxes are going to be raised, not cut."

The missing context: This quote is from a Feb. 27 campaign event in Conway, South Carolina. The Trump campaign ad gives the misleading impression that Biden told the crowd he plans on raising taxes on all Americans if elected president. But that’s not what he said.

The full context shows Biden was addressing one person who indicated moments earlier that he or she had benefited from the tax bill that became law under Trump. The ad cuts out the part of the clip where Biden specified that taxes would be raised "if you benefited from that."

"Well, you did. Well that’s good. I’m glad to see you’re doing well already," Biden said, directly addressing that person in the audience. "But guess what, if you elect me, your taxes are going to be raised, not cut, if you benefited from that."

How the ad quotes Biden: "And here’s how it works. I’m going to raise taxes."

The missing context: This quote is from an Oct. 10 campaign event in Erie, Pa. The Trump campaign ad cuts Biden’s remarks short, leaving out the ensuing lines in which Biden specified that his tax plan would only raise taxes for corporations and the highest earners.

The full context shows Biden was talking about his plan to spur job growth and an economic recovery from the recession brought on by the pandemic.

"And here’s how it works. I’m going to raise taxes," Biden said. "I’m not going to raise taxes on anybody making less than 400 grand. But you won’t pay a penny more. But those making more than that, I’m going to ask them to finally begin to pay their fair share. I’m going to ask the big corporations and the wealthy to begin to pay."

How the ad quotes Biden: "You’re going to get a tax raise."

The missing context: This quote is from an Oct. 12 campaign event in Toledo, Ohio. The Trump campaign ad again omits key portions of Biden’s remarks. The full context shows he was talking about raising taxes on people with taxable incomes over $400,000 per year.

"I’m not going to raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year," Biden said. "If you make more than 400, beep your horn, because you’re going to get a tax raise. Well, I’m going to raise your tax slightly, if you’re making over 400. But look, you’re not going to pay a penny more. In fact, tens of millions of middle-class families are going to get a tax cut when they need it most. Raising their kids, trying to get affordable healthcare, buying their first home, or saving for retirement. But I’m going to ask big corporations and the super wealthy just to begin to start to pay their fair share. I’m going to raise back the tax cut he gave for corporate America."

Our ruling

A Trump campaign ad claims Biden repeatedly told Americans he's going to raise their taxes. 

That’s not what Biden actually said in the three clips highlighted in the ad, which were edited to pluck specific comments out of context. And it’s not what Biden’s tax plan would do, either.

Biden and his campaign have repeatedly said his tax plan does not call for direct tax increases on anyone making less than $400,000 per year.

We rate this ad’s claim False.

Our Sources

Admo Creative Alert, "Means for You," accessed Oct. 21, 2020

Various searches on TVEyes, Oct. 21, 2020

Tax Policy Center, "An Updated Analysis of Former Vice President Biden's Tax Proposals," Oct. 15, 2020

American Enterprise Institute, "An analysis of Joe Biden’s tax proposals, October 2020 update," Oct. 13, 2020

PBS NewsHour on YouTube, "WATCH: Biden speaks about the economy amid COVID-19 during campaign event in Ohio," Oct. 12, 2020

NBC News on YouTube, "Live: Biden Holds Campaign Event In Pennsylvania | NBC News," Oct. 10, 2020

Tax Foundation, "Details and Analysis of Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden’s Tax Proposals," Sept. 29, 2020

Donald J. Trump on YouTube, Sept. 16, 2020

Penn Wharton Budget Model, "PWBM Analysis of the Biden Platform," Sept. 14, 2020

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, "Understanding Joe Biden's 2020 Tax Plan," July 30, 2020

WCNC on YouTube, "Joe Biden in Conway, South Carolina," Feb. 27, 2020

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump ad accuses Joe Biden of phantom 14% tax hike," Oct. 13, 2020

PolitiFact, "Biden’s tax proposal isn’t largest increase in U.S. history," Oct. 8, 2020

PolitiFact, "Ad watch: Joe Biden’s tax plan and middle-class tax cuts," Oct. 7, 2020

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump Jr. misrepresents Joe Biden’s tax plan," Sept. 4, 2020

PolitiFact, "Another widespread Facebook post spreads false claims about Joe Biden’s tax plan," Aug. 26, 2020

PolitiFact, "Nikki Haley's False RNC claim that Biden wants 'massive' tax hikes on working families," Aug. 25, 2020

PolitiFact, "Facebook post wrongly claims Biden would hike tax rates for family earning $75,000," Aug. 20, 2020

PolitiFact, "Ad attacking Joe Biden’s tax plan takes his comments out of context," Aug. 20, 2020

Statement from the Biden campaign, Oct. 21, 2020

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Trump campaign ad takes Biden out of context three times on taxes

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