PolitiFact: GOP tax plan impacts and visa lottery fraud


Recent claims PolitiFact checked out included one by Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., on the Republican tax proposal; one by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on a tax deduction the GOP tax plan would eliminate; and one by Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., on a State Department lottery for visa applicants. Here are summaries of our findings. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com.

Under the House Republican tax proposal, “the average family of four earning median income ($59,000/year) will receive an additional $1,182 in their pocket every year.”

— Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 in an email to a constituent

We found his statement exaggerates how long the average family of four will enjoy those tax savings.

Under the new tax bill, the family would take a larger $24,000 standard deduction, leaving $35,000 in taxable income. At the 12 percent rate, that would mean $4,200 in preliminary liability. This would be offset by $3,200 in child tax credits and $600 in family credits, leaving a final tax liability of $400. That’s a $1,182.50 tax cut. So Ferguson has some mathematical detail to back up the figure.

But that’s not the end of the story.

The GOP bill eliminates or shrinks a number of widely used itemized deductions. Also, the benefits of the tax proposal shrink, slowly but surely, over the next decade for the type family Ferguson cites.

Our ruling

Ferguson’s statement is based on a plausible and transparent calculation, but he glossed over some context. The calculation doesn’t factor in several itemized deductions that would disappear under the proposal, which could have a significant impact on at least some families around that income level. And the statement is misleading when it says the family will save $1,182 “every year,” since that’s true for the first year only; after that, the benefit starts to shrink and eventually turns into a tax hike.

We rate the statement Half True.

“Teachers spend $1.6 BILLION per year on school supplies. The Republican tax bill ELIMINATES their ability to deduct those expenses.”

— Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 in a tweet

Feinstein, D-Calif., took aim at an element of the bill that is of interest to many K-12 teachers. The tax bill House Republicans unveiled would have scrappeda provision in the tax code that lets teachers deduct some unreimbursed classroom spending up to $250.

The California Democrat has a point in her tweet, though we found two elements of it that are worthy of some caution.

Not all of the money spent by teachers is tax-deductible. Most surveys indicate teachers spend more than $250, and the $1.6 billion Feinstein cites is an estimate of their spending, not the amount deducted.

In reality, not every teacher who qualifies for this deduction takes advantage of it. The Treasury Department estimates that in tax year 2016, the classroom expense deduction reduced federal tax revenue by $210 million. Feinstein’s $1.6 billion figure is overstated.

Our ruling

Feinstein has a point that the GOP plan would get rid of the existing deduction for out-of-pocket classroom expenses for teachers. But the tweet overstates the value of the deduction in two ways — first, because only a portion of that amount can actually be deducted under the curent law, and second, because not all teachers use the deduction.

We rate the statement Half True.

The diversity visa lottery is “plagued by fraud.”

— Georgia Sen. David Perdue on Wednesday, Nov. 1st, 2017 in a tweet

We found government reports and officials have identified fraud as a problem in the diversity visa program. The State Department said it did not have data to determine how widespread it is, and experts told us they were unaware of quantitative estimates.

Fraud has been a concern for years among lawmakers and government officials. Government agencies have even posted warnings about scammers’ attempt to deceive applicants.

Our ruling

The State Department did not provide data on how widespread fraud is in the program, but fraud has been documented for many years.

We rate Perdue’s claim Mostly True.


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