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By Erin O'Neill September 17, 2012

Bloggers say Bob Menendez voted for a new 3.8% tax on the sale of homes

A debunked claim making the rounds on the chain e-mail circuit for years has been revitalized to attack a New Jersey Democrat.

A blog called "Menendez Facts" falls far short of the truth in a post claiming U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez "voted to enact a new tax on the sale of homes of 3.8%."

"In 2010 Sen. Bob Menendez voted to enact a brand-new tax on the sale of homes. Sen. Bob Menendez voted for this during one of the most horrific housing markets in recent history. When families are struggling to sell their homes, as housing prices plunge Sen. Bob Menendez voted to take even more money from families struggling to sell their homes," the Sept. 4 blog post says.

The post includes a chart that lists how much this new tax would cost homeowners. Sell your home for $200,000? The chart claims you would pay $7,600 in taxes.

Sell your home for $500,000? That’ll cost you $19,000 in taxes, according to the chart.

But that’s simply false.

Menendez Facts acknowledged in an e-mail that we were fact-checking this claim and said they would update their blog post this week, but did not say how.

Versions of this home sales tax claim have been checked by PolitiFact and other nonpartisan fact-checking groups several times before. The claim has been roundly declared as false and PolitiFact has rated it Pants on Fire.

Such claims stem from a provision included in the 2010 national health care overhaul.

On March 25, 2010, the Senate passed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which was the second part of the health care bill.  

Menendez, who is running for re-election in November, voted in favor of that bill, which included a new tax on investment income for wealthy individuals that goes into effect in 2013.

The law created a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for individuals who have an adjusted gross income of more than $200,000 or couples with an adjusted gross income of more than $250,000. That investment income could include profits from real estate transactions.

PolitiFact National noted in a similar fact-check in July, that those high-income earners represent less than 5 percent of all taxpayers. Individuals or couples who make less than those income thresholds would not be subject to the tax.

But even if a couple earned more than those thresholds, the tax only applies to profits from the sale of a home, not the sales price itself, as the blog post claims.

Also, if the home being sold is your primary residence, the first $250,000 in profits for an individual, or the first $500,000 in profits for a couple, is excluded from the tax.

And for some perspective, the National Association of Realtors reported that the national median existing-home price in July was $187,300. No homeowner could make $250,000 in profit on the sale of that home and, therefore, would not pay the 3.8 percent tax.

Paul Brubaker, Menendez’s campaign communications director, said in an e-mail, "Senator Menendez worked on behalf of New Jersey’s middle class families, and all Americans, to help provide them access to quality, affordable health care by helping to make the Affordable Care Act the law of the land. It is sad that, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the law, some falsehoods about the law persist ­– evidently with the help of the web site."

Our ruling

A blog called Menendez Facts claimed that "Sen. Bob Menendez voted to enact a new tax on the sale of homes of 3.8%."

That’s a distortion of the truth.

Menendez voted in favor of a bill tied to the health care law that created a tax on investment income for high-income earners.

Though that investment income could include profits from real estate transactions, it is not a tax on the sales price of a home and it would not impact the vast majority of Americans.

Wealthy individuals who sell their home for a large profit may be subject to the tax, but the blog does not make that clear and suggests the tax applies to the sales price of homes, regardless of an individual’s income.

So again we set this ridiculous claim ablaze: Pants on Fire!

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Our Sources

Menendez Facts, Fact 9 : Bob Menendez voted for a tax on the sale of homes, Sept. 4, 2012, Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, accessed Sept. 13, 2012

United States Senate, U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes: H.R. 4872, accessed Sept. 13, 2012

National Association of Realtors, The 3.8% Tax: Real Estate Scenarios & Examples, accessed Sept. 13, 2012

PolitiFact, A 3.8% sales tax on real estate in the health care law? This chain email's claim just won't die, July 25, 2012

PolitiFact Rhode Island, Talk show host Buddy Cianci says Obama's health care plan dictates a 3.8 percent tax on home sales, July 15, 2012

PolitiFact Rhode Island, Home "sales tax" e-mail surfaces again, Feb. 7, 2012

PolitiFact, Health care law institutes a sales tax on home sales? No, it doesn't, Aug. 23, 2010

Forbes, How Much Is The Obamacare Mandate Going To Cost You?, July 24, 2012, A 3.8 Percent "Sales Tax" on Your Home?, April 22, 2010

Kaiser Family Foundation, Summary of new health reform law: Tax changes related to health insurance, accessed Sept. 13, 2012

Tax Foundation, Summary of Latest Federal Individual Income Tax Data, Oct. 24, 2011

National Association of Realtors, Existing-Home Sales Improve in July, Prices Continue to Rise, Aug. 22, 2012

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Bloggers say Bob Menendez voted for a new 3.8% tax on the sale of homes

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