I was listening to the Trump rally tonight in Ohio and Trump said:

My administration is working every single day to heed and honor the will of the voters. That includes working on one of the biggest tax cuts in American history and actually if I get what I want, it will be the single biggest tax cut in American history. We have the highest taxes anywhere in the world and this will really bring them down to one of the lowest.

USA has the highest taxes anywhere in the world

This sounds like a difficult claim to verify, does he mean corporate tax? Income tax? Is he factoring in VAT/GST? Don't they differ between states? Is he talking about federal taxes, or including state taxes? For which tax brackets?

Does the USA pay the highest taxes in the world?


2 Answers 2


Mostly false.

According to Wikipedia, List of countries by tax rates, Belgium has the highest maximum income tax rate (64% tax), Cameroon has the highest corporate tax rate (38.5%) and Netherlands have the highest minimum income tax rate (36.55%).

Time.com reported in Jul 19, 2017:

As the Republicans in Washington prepare to dig into the coming round of budget negotiations, their top priorities will include an systemic overhaul for U.S. taxes, which President Trump has characterized as "just about the highest in the world."

But how much do Americans really pay compared with other nations? It may be less than you think.

Tax rate US compared with other countries

A research paper published this week by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago includes the above chart, highlighting the tax burdens of all 35 OECD countries as of 2014. With a tax burden of 25% -- a measurement that includes income, property, and various other taxes -- the U.S. is near the very bottom, well below the overall average of 34%. It ranks below all the measured countries except Korea, Chile, and Mexico.

Trump and other Republicans are right about one aspect of U.S. taxes, however. When it comes to taxing corporate profits, the U.S. does indeed have one of the highest nominal maximum rates in the world, at 35%.

The highest corporate tax rate is 38.5% (Cameroon) which is 3.5% higher than the US rate. But some states in the US have extra state based corporate tax of 1-12%.

The [US] marginal federal corporate income tax rate on the highest income bracket of corporations (currently above USD 18,333,333) is 35%. State and local governments may also impose income taxes ranging from 0% to 12%, the top marginal rates averaging approximately 7.5%. - Kpmg

So, US states that have local corporate tax above 3.5%, the rate is 38.5%+ and therefore higher than any other coutry in the world. But that doesn't apply to all state.

He would be right to say "some of our states have the highest corporate tax rates in the world."

  • 5
    Can you show why you think the top marginal rate is the figure Trump is referring to?
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 26, 2017 at 8:38
  • 4
    @Oddthinking - can you show any reason to think he's referring to anything else? Jul 26, 2017 at 21:50
  • 6
    @PoloHoleSet: Yes, I can. The fact that it is wrong. The claim is vague in that it could be referring to a large number of different measures: top marginal income tax rate, mean income tax burden, median income tax burden, total income tax burden, mean/median/sum of the total (income + indirect) tax burden, etc. Given it is vague we need to give the claimant the benefit of the doubt. Picking one and declaring it wrong (or worse: accusing the claimant of deliberately lying, as this does) is cherry-picking.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 27, 2017 at 0:25
  • 15
    @Oddthinking Trump probably doesn't know which one he is referring to. Jul 27, 2017 at 12:42
  • 4
    @DJClayworth - Doesn't really matter which one, since any one of them, except statutory corporate tax rate (which does not map to actual corporate tax rate, at all), is demonstrably false. Jul 27, 2017 at 13:53

It depends on which tax rate you are talking about and which countries you are including in the comparison.

The US does have the highest general top marginal corporate income tax rate in the OECD (a group of rich/developed countries), but worldwide it only has the third highest (after the United Arab Emirates and Puerto Rico). These can be further adjusted to use effective rather than merely nominal rates, but both of these measures are commonly used by economists and journalists, so it is unclear which one was being referred to in the speech.

On the other hand, according to Investopedia, the US has lower income tax rates than many other countries. For instance, the income tax rate for average-earning singles with no children in Belgium is 42%, 39.7% in Germany, 36.1% in Denmark, but only 25.6% in the US.

  • 2
    Which tax rate is Trump proposing to reduce? That should guide us into which one he meant.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 26, 2017 at 8:38
  • 7
    Puerto Rico is part of the US.
    – jwodder
    Jul 26, 2017 at 12:35
  • 5
    It's also worth pointing out that while US corporate tax rates are nominally high, the tax code includes such a huge range of allowances and other factors that the actual tax paid is much lower. Jul 26, 2017 at 17:02
  • 7
    @Oddthinking Trump has repeatedly said that the US have the highest taxes in the world. If it happens once or twice, perhaps you can call it a slip of the tongue, but if he's doing it almost always, it indicates that either he really does mean all taxes (in which case he is either wrong or lying), or he only means corporate taxes (in which case he is either stupid for not remembering the difference or manipulative in the sense that he thinks by saying only taxes, he can create a false narrative amongst the dumb parts of the US population).
    – Imean H
    Jul 27, 2017 at 6:36
  • 3
    People love lower taxes. That's the point he wants to sell. That's also the reason why he never talks about what exact tax, by what means, when and how.
    – BlueWizard
    Jul 27, 2017 at 10:37

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