FACT CHECK: Did Donald Trump Deliver A Bigger Tax Cut Than Ronald Reagan?

Christine Sellers | Fact Check Reporter

During a recent town hall event with Fox News host Sean Hannity, former President Donald Trump claimed he delivered a bigger tax cut than the late President Ronald Reagan.

Verdict: False

Data from multiple sources, including the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, indicate Reagan delivered a larger tax cut than Trump. Reagan’s tax cut reduced revenue to 2.89% of gross domestic product (GDP), while Trump’s tax cut reduced revenue to 0.9% of GDP.

Fact Check:

Trump remains the Republican frontrunner of the 2024 presidential race at 61%, Reuters reported on Dec. 11, citing a poll they conducted with Ipsos. Another poll conducted by NBC News, the Des Moines Register, and Mediacom released on Dec. 11 also places Trump in the lead at 51% ahead of the Iowa caucuses in January, according to Politico.

During the town hall event, Trump claimed he delivered a bigger tax cut than Reagan. “We gave you the biggest tax cut in the history of our country, bigger than the Reagan tax cut,” Trump said.

The claim is false. In an October 2017 blog post, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget indicated Trump’s tax cut was the “eighth largest as a percent of GDP since 1918 and the fourth largest in inflation-adjusted dollars.” Using the “Big Six Framework,” the Committee provided a rough estimate that Trump’s proposed tax cut “could cost $2.2 trillion over ten years.”  Trump’s tax cuts reduced revenue to 0.9% of GDP, according to a recent piece from The Washington Post.

Chris Edwards, an economist at the libertarian Cato Institute, directed Check Your Fact to the U.S. Treasury Department’s September 2006 OTA Papers.

Reagan’s tax cuts, introduced via his Economic Recovery Tax Act (ERTA) of 1981, reduced revenue to 2.89% of GDP over the course of four years, according to Table 2 of document. According to the OTA Papers, the best way to measure “the revenue effect” is by percentage of GDP, as it “eliminates the effects of inflation, real economic growth, and the size of total federal receipts.”

Additionally, Reagan’s tax cuts are the largest since “the introduction of the modern income tax in 1913,” Forbes reported, citing the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

In November 2017, The Washington Post debunked Trump’s claim that his tax cuts were the biggest in U.S. history. At the time, the outlet calculated the $1.5 trillion tax cuts, which span a 10-year period, to be 0.9% of GDP. The outlet arrived at that percentage by using the Republican budget blueprint (which stated that the “tax cut would reduce revenue by $167 billion in 2018”) and an estimated GDP of $19.5 trillion for the year 2018, while also noting that the tax cut “averages out to $167 billion a year in the first four years.” (RELATED: Joe Biden Claimed In 2019 There Is No Evidence His Son Hunter ‘Did Anything Wrong’)

Reuters also denied the claim that Trump’s tax cuts would be the biggest in U.S. history in November 2017, citing the fact that his tax cuts applied to more than just corporate taxes. In looking at the top individual tax rate and referencing data from the Tax Foundation, the outlet noted that Reagan was still ahead of Trump. Reagan reduced the top individual tax rate from 70% to 28%, while Trump wanted to reduce the rate from 39.6% to 35%.

Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut passed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in December 2017, according to Newsweek. Prior to passing his $1.5 trillion tax cut, Trump had a “$5.5 trillion framework in mind.”

In an April 2017 blog post, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget produced a rough estimate of Trump’s original $5.5 trillion plan, calculating a proposed tax cut of that size to reduce revenue to 2.3% of GDP over 10 years. Though smaller than Reagan’s, this tax cut would be “the third largest tax cut since 1940,” according to the Committee. A spokesperson for the Committee directed Check Your Fact to the blog post.

John Buhl, a former state tax and budget reporter at Tax Notes and the senior communications manager at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said Trump’s claim that his tax cut was larger than Reagan’s is “not true.”

“Simply put, this isn’t true. It was a very large reform package, but the net tax cut amount, measured as a share of the economy (which is how you’d want to do it to best compare different time periods), has been surpassed a few times,” Buhl told Check Your Fact in an email.

Prior to losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, Trump promised to continue lowering taxes, according to Fox Business.

Check Your Fact has contacted Trump’s spokesperson, the U.S. Treasury Department and other think tanks for comment. This piece will be updated if responses are provided.

Christine Sellers

Fact Check Reporter