Examining Trump's Muddled Stances on Tax Policy

Image: Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Lynden, Washington, on May 7, 2016.Elaine Thompson / AP

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By Mark Murray

Donald Trump's position on tax policy remains far from clear, especially in interviews conducted over the last 24 hours.

On Sunday morning, Trump appeared to state that taxes on the rich should increase, contradicting his proposal from last year -- in which the wealthiest 0.1 percent would see a cut of $1.3 million, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But bottom line, do you want taxes on the wealthy to go up or down?TRUMP: They will go up a little bit. And they may go up, you know...

Trump later added, "I don't mind paying more tax, I'll be honest with you. I don't mind paying more tax. I've done very well over the last 40 years."

He seemed to repeat the message on NBC's "Meet the Press," telling NBC's Chuck Todd: "For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it's going to go up. And you know what, it really should go up."

Both interviews were consistent with what he said on NBC’s "Today" last month:

GUTHRIE: Do you believe in raising taxes on the wealthy?TRUMP: I do, I do, including myself. I do.

But on Monday morning, Trump said that when he was talking about raising taxes on the wealthy, it's about increasing from his current PROPOSAL.

"If I increase it on the wealthy, they're still going to pay less than now," Trump told CNN. "I'm not talking about increasing from this point. I'm talking about increasing from my tax proposal."

He went on to say, "Chuck Todd understood that totally, and yet they released information like I'm looking to increase the taxes. They will be getting a reduction, but the big reduction is going to be for business and for the middle class, because the middle class is being decimated in our country. So it was totally misrepresented just now by you, and it was misrepresented, frankly, by NBC."

But to further muddy the waters, that conversation Trump was referring to was over BUSINESS taxes, not income taxes. (The emphasis below is ours.)

TRUMP: [T]he middle class has to be protected. The rich is probably going to end up paying more. And business might have to pay a little bit more. But we're giving a massive business tax cut. Remember this, we're the highest taxed nation in the world. But this is a tax-- Chuck, this is a tax proposal--CHUCK TODD: Wait a minute. Let me stop you there. You just said, "Businesses might pay a little bit more." You just said, "Business might pay a little bit more, but we're going to get 'em a massive tax cut." You just said it within ten words.DONALD TRUMP: No, no. I didn't say it. Excuse me. I said they might have to pay a little bit more than my proposal, Chuck. I said they might have--CHUCK TODD: Oh, your proposal. Okay. I just wanted to get that clear.

It’s clear from that exchange that Trump meant that, when it comes to business taxes, he was using his own plan as a baseline, not current tax rates.

During the interview, we did not specifically clarify whether he was also referring to his overall tax plan as a baseline when it comes to raising taxes on individuals.