Fact Checker Slams ‘Tendentious’ Clinton Tax Rhetoric

Hillary Rodham Clinton
AP

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton flubbed the facts last week when she claimed that illegal immigrants pay more in taxes than large corporations, according to a Washington Post fact-check.

"In New York, which I know a little bit about because I represented it for eight years and I live there now, our undocumented workers in New York pay more in taxes than some of the biggest corporations in New York," Clinton claimed at a North Las Vegas event.

The claim, sourced to a post on the website of Clinton rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), ignores crucial facts—such as the billions that alleged tax-dodging corporations actually pay—and compares tax bills for a group of individuals and corporate entities, which obscures crucial distinctions, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler found.

Even if Clinton incorrectly stated her talking point, this is a tendentious argument that is probably made even less relevant by 2014 tax data. (Note how the taxes paid by Verizon and Citicorp increased as the economy began to pick up.) If she is only talking about state and local income taxes, that’s just $186 million, according to the ITEP estimate for New York. Verizon and Citicorp still exceed that number on state and local taxes alone.

Undocumented immigrants obviously pay a lot of  taxes, especially sales taxes. Clinton would have an even stronger case to highlight the tax contribution of illegal immigrants if she mentioned that the Social Security actuary estimated that illegal immigrants paid $12 billion in Social Security taxes in 2010 alone, with little hope of ever receiving benefits. (They used false or duplicative Social Security numbers.) That’s even more than the ITEP estimate for state/local income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes paid by illegal immigrants across the nation.

But comparing the taxes of hundreds of thousands of people to the tax bill of one corporation is a stretch and fairly misleading. Even the companies that pay little or no federal income taxes end up paying lots of other taxes. So it’s a nonsense comparison.

Kessler awarded Clinton "four Pinnochois," the site’s most egregious factual designation.