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While in Congress, DeSantis was one of multiple co-sponsors of the Fair Tax Act in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
The Fair Tax Act would add a national sales tax in lieu of other federal taxes including income tax. It has been repeatedly proposed for two decades in Congress.
DeSantis has not called for the Fair Tax as governor.
A TV ad by backers of former President Donald Trump portrays Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a fan of raising taxes on the middle class.
"In Congress Ron DeSantis pushed a 23% national sales tax where the middle class pays more," said an ad by MAGA Inc., a pro-Trump political action committee.
The ad said DeSantis’ plan would increase taxes on nearly all U.S. families, while "President Trump cut taxes a lot, lowering tax rates for everyone."
The ad refers to the Fair Tax Act, a measure DeSantis co-sponsored in Congress.
We fact-checked a similar and slightly more misleading attack on DeSantis in 2018, when he first ran for Florida governor.
The current attack repeats the playbook by leading with the high sales tax number and leaving out a key offset: the "fair tax" would eliminate other federal taxes.
DeSantis has not mentioned the idea in years. While this ad aims to draw a line between Trump and DeSantis, a political action committee supporting DeSantis fired back with a video of Trump talking about the "fair tax" over the years.
In 2015, Trump repeatedly floated the idea but didn’t commit to it. "Now you could go to the fair tax, the flat tax; there's a lot of things you could go to," Trump said on MSNBC.
Other times, Trump was more critical of the idea. In a 2015 Republican presidential debate when asked about a flat tax, Trump said if someone makes $200 million a year, that person pays "very little, relatively, to somebody that's making $50,000 a year."
Although the finger-pointing draws a lot of attention, in truth, neither politician is looking to hike taxes.
The idea behind the Fair Tax Act is to introduce a 23% federal sales tax that would replace other federal taxes. The bill would eliminate income, estate, payroll and gift taxes, as well as the Internal Revenue Service.
The Fair Tax Act has been introduced in Congress repeatedly since 1999, earning support from some prominent Republicans along the way, including former Vice President Mike Pence and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley and Trump are declared 2023 presidential candidates; DeSantis and Pence have not yet entered the race.
"From a policy perspective, I think the IRS is really past its point of usefulness," DeSantis said on Fox News in 2013. "I think we need to move to a fair or flat tax and give the government less power."
At the time, Republicans were scrutinizing the IRS over how it handled applications for tax-exempt status from some conservative groups.
DeSantis did not push the national sales tax plan as a gubernatorial candidate, and there is no evidence that DeSantis has called for it while approaching a bid for president.
Taxpayers might look at the flat 23% tax and compare it with the income tax rate of their tax bracket — as well as payroll taxes — and think it’s a nice deal, said John Buhl, a spokesperson for the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
But by removing most federal taxes, the policy also removes deductions and credits, such as the child tax credit.
The Fair Tax Act’s critics say that this would be a regressive tax plan, under which poor and middle-class families pay more than wealthy households. The sales tax would apply to every purchase, while state sales taxes sometimes exempt certain items.
"Implementing the Fair Tax would likely result in higher taxes for the middle class and lower taxes for wealthier households. The only question is what the final numbers could look like," Buhl said.
A MAGA Inc. TV ad said that "in Congress Ron DeSantis pushed a 23% national sales tax."
DeSantis co-sponsored Fair Tax bills three times while in Congress. Those proposals would set a national sales tax and replace other federal taxes, including income tax.
The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.
MAGA Inc, "Versus" ad, May 12, 2023
Never Back Down, Tweet, May 12, 2023
Semafor, The Fair Tax is haunting the 2024 GOP field, Feb. 7, 2023
Text of the Fair Tax Act of 2013
Text of the Fair Tax Act of 2015
Text of the Fair Tax Act of 2017
Text of the Fair Tax Act of 2007
Text of the Fair Tax Act of 1999
Nikki Haley, Facebook post, Dec. 30, 2012
AmericanBridge, Trump supported the Fair Tax or Flat Tax, Last edited Feb. 9, 2023
AmericanBridge, DeSantis research book, Last edited April 26, 2023
Washington Post, Wednesday’s GOP debate transcript, annotated, Sept. 16, 2015
Sun Sentinel, Years-long effort to eliminate sales tax on diapers about to pay off for Florida families, May 13, 2023
MSNBC, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski Interview Donald Trump, June 18, 2015
Lou Dobbs Tonight, Interview with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, June 26, 2013
PolitiFact, Misleading Putnam ad twists DeSantis stance on taxes, July 27, 2018
PolitiFact, Donna Brazile: No conspiracy here, IRS targeted liberals, too, June 22, 2014
Email interview, John Buhl, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center spokesperson, May 15, 2023
Email interview, Erica York, Tax Foundation's Center for Federal Tax Policy senior economist, May 15, 2023.
Email interview, Matt Wolking, Never Back Down spokesperson, May 15, 2023
Email interview, Alex Pfeiffer, MAGA Inc spokesperson, May 15, 2023
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