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Fact Check: Experts Call Trump's Tax Claim False

by Jane C. Timm /  / Updated 
Image: President Donald Trump speaks before a security briefing
President Donald Trump speaks before a security briefing at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey on Aug. 10, 2017.Evan Vucci / AP

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President Donald Trump on Thursday repeated his past claim that the American people are the most heavily burdened with taxes in the world, while critiquing Congress for failing to move more quickly on his legislative agenda to cut them.

"We pay more tax than anybody in the world, we’re going to reduce taxes," Trump said from his Bedminster, N.J., golf resort where he is spending what the White House calls a "working vacation."

His claim is not true, no matter how many times he says it.

"Two years later, and I’m still answering this one," the Tax Foundation's Director of Federal Projects, Kyle Pomerleau, told NBC News. "The answer is still the same: No, the United States is not the highest-taxed nation in the world."

Let's look at the facts:

America’s tax revenue is 26 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is significantly lower than the average 34 percent other developed countries pay relative to their GDP, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Denmark, France and Sweden are among those nations that top America on taxes.

The U.S. tax burden per capita — $14,115 — also is below average in relation to other developed nations, as well, data from the Tax Policy Center shows. By the numbers, the U.S. corporate tax rate is on the high side, but deductions bring it back down to the average range worldwide, experts said.

"We are nowhere close to the top," Alex Raskolnikov, a professor of tax law at Columbia Law School, told NBC News, speaking broadly of the nation's overall tax burden.

Related: Where Did Trump Dig Up 45,000 Mining Jobs?

Tax experts told NBC News it isn't fully clear what Trump is referring to in his statement.

If he is talking about the total amount of taxes paid, then, yes, America's tax coffers do take in more money than any other nation. But would that be a reasonable measure to back up the claim that the U.S. is the highest-taxed nation in the world? The experts said: No.

Daniel Shaviro, a professor of taxation at New York University Law School, called that measure of the tax burden "nonsensical and meaningless."

CORRECTION (Aug. 11, 2017, 10:05 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the name and title of an expert at the Tax Foundation. He is Kyle Pomerleau, not John. His title is director of federal projects, not federal budgets.

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