Gubernatorial candidate exaggerates Missouri tax brackets

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“We have ten different tax brackets and if you’re making $9,000, you’re already in the top bracket.”

— Eric Greitens on Thursday, March 17th, 2016 in a gubernatorial debate


Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens said the Missouri tax code is too complicated.

In a March 17 GOP primary debate in Columbia, Greitens offered figures to back his claim: “We have 10 different tax brackets, and if you’re making $9,000, you’re already in the top tax bracket.”

That sounded a little low for the top bracket, so we asked Greitens’ campaign for evidence.

His staff referred us to the Missouri Department of Revenue’s 2015 Tax Chart.

Missouri Department of Revenue’s 2015 Tax Chart

If the Missouri taxable income is: The tax is:
$0 to $99 $0
At least $100 but not over $1,000 1½% of the Missouri taxable income
Over $1,000 but not over $2,000 $15 plus 2% of excess over $1,000
Over $2,000 but not over $3,000 $35 plus 2½% of excess over $2,000
Over $3,000 but not over $4,000 $60 plus 3% of excess over $3,000
Over $4,000 but not over $5,000 $90 plus 3½% of excess over $4,000
Over $5,000 but not over $6,000 $125 plus 4% of excess over $5,000
Over $6,000 but not over $7,000 $165 plus 4½% of excess over $6,000
Over $7,000 but not over $8,000 $210 plus 5% of excess over $7,000
Over $8,000 but not over $9,000 $260 plus 5½% of excess over $8,000
Over $9,000 $315 plus 6% of excess over $9,000

The chart actually shows 11 different tax brackets, but that aside, at first glance, it seems to back up Greitens’ claim. The top bracket is $9,000 and higher.

However, there’s a catch. Greitens said people making $9,000 or more would fall in the top bracket. In fact, this chart applies not to how much a person earns but to that individual’s taxable earnings — after any deductions.

Taxable income vs. gross income

Taxable income is gross income less all personal exemptions and deductions.

The Department of Revenue allows the following standard deductions for Missouri taxpayers:

Standard deductions for Missouri taxpayers

Filing Status Standard Deduction
Single $6,300
Married filing combined $12,600
Married filing separate $6,300
Head of household $9,250
Qualifying widow(er) $12,600
Claimed as dependent on another return $1,050, or $350 plus earned income

The chart shows a single filer can claim a standard deduction of $6,300. Therefore, if that person makes $9,000, as Greitens’ said, then he or she would only have a taxable income of $2,700 — even with no other exemptions. When we refer back to the department’s tax bracket chart, we can see such an individual would fit into the state’s fourth tax bracket instead of the highest tax bracket.

All things being equal, a single filer would need to make at least $15,300 before he or she would face the highest tax rate.

Married people filing jointly, heads of household and surviving spouses could make more than $15,300 and still not be in the top bracket.

PolitiFact Ratings

Our ruling

Greitens said, “We have 10 different tax brackets, and if you’re making $9,000, you’re already in the top tax bracket.”

The plain meaning of “making $9,000” is that’s how much a person earns. However, the Missouri tax brackets aren’t based on gross income but on income after deductions and exemptions. Those reduce a person’s taxable income, which is the basis of the chart Greitens had in mind.

A person making $9,000 would fall in the fourth tax bracket, closer to the bottom, and certainly not at the top.

Most people would understand Greitens to be talking about gross income, and in this case, his statement falls far short of the mark. We rate this claim False.


Sources:

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About PolitiFact Missouri

Missouri Business Alert has partnered with PolitiFact to keep tabs on statements made by state legislators, the governor and other public figures. Reporters research the statements and rate them based on the Truth-O-Meter.


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