SOTU fact-check: Did the Trump tax cuts help 'the top 1%' and not 'working people,' as Biden said?

An estimated 82% of middle-income Americans received a tax cut, a Tax Policy Center study showed

President Biden claimed that the Republican tax cuts that former President Trump signed in 2017 benefited "the top 1% of Americans" but not "working people," unlike his American Rescue Plan, but various studies on the tax cuts tell a far different story.

"Unlike the $2 trillion tax cut passed in the previous administration, that benefited the top 1% of Americans, the American Rescue Plan," Biden said during his State of the Union address Tuesday. "The American Rescue Plan helped working people and left no one behind. And it worked."


Yet multiple studies found that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 benefited a broad swath of Americans. The Tax Policy Center estimated that 82% of middle-income Americans would receive a tax cut for an average reduction of $1,260 in individual income taxes in 2018, increasing after-tax incomes by 1.7%. According to the Treasury Department, 90 percent of Americans saw an increase in their take-home pay in 2018. The Bureau Of Labor Statistics reported a 3.3 percent average wage increase that year.

President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Washington as Vice President Kamala Harris and House speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., look on.  (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP / AP Newsroom)

The tax cut law included opportunity zones, which led investors to put their money into distressed communities. The law also doubled the child tax credit, saving working families an estimated $100 billion.

Bloomberg Businessweek's economics editor, Peter Coy, noted that the bill's benefits extended far beyond the top 1%, countering a Biden campaign claim that "Tax experts estimate that over the long run, 83% of Trump’s tax giveaway will flow to the top 1% of earners in this country."

President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

While the Tax Policy Center estimated that the after-tax incomes of people in the top 1% will increase 2.9% in 2024 vs. a scenario of no change in the tax law, the after-tax incomes of other brackets will increase, as well. "Here are the estimated increases for everyone else: the bottom fifth of households, up 0.4%; second fifth, up 0.9%; middle fifth, up 1.3%; fourth fifth, up 1.4%; and top fifth (which includes the top 1%), up 2.3%," Coy wrote. "So it’s fair to say that based on the TPC analysis, the tax cut is skewed to the rich, but it’s not as skewed as" Biden previously said.

"The Tax Foundation, whose analyses tend to find better results from tax cuts than those of the Tax Policy Center, estimates the following changes in after-tax incomes in 2025: the bottom fifth of households, up 0.7%; second fifth, up 1%; middle fifth, up 1.3%; fourth fifth, up 1.4%; top fifth, up 1.8%, and top 1%, up 2.1%," Coy added. "In the final days of a hard-fought campaign, it’s only fair to acknowledge that just about everyone, from rich to poor, got at least something out of the Trump tax cut."


Despite multiple studies finding that Americans broadly benefited from the law, Americans have been skeptical. In 2019, The New York Times' Ben Casselman and Jim Tankersley reported that "to a large degree, the gap between perception and reality on the tax cuts appears to flow from a sustained — and misleading — effort by liberal opponents of the law to brand it as a broad middle-class tax increase."


U.S. President Joe Biden during a State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Biden's first State of the Union address comes against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the subsequ (Photographer: Jim LoScalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)