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Fact Check: Is Donald Trump a small business?

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Fri October 5, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama says Trump is a small business under Romney plan
  • The government defines small business as having under 500 workers

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama invoked Donald Trump's name during Wednesday's presidential debate, claiming that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney would consider the mogul's empire a small business.

"Under Governor Romney's definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses," President Obama said. "Donald Trump is a small business. Now, I know Donald Trump doesn't like to think of himself as small anything -- but that's how you define small businesses if you're getting business income."

The facts:

While there is no universally accepted definition of a small business, the federal government defines it as any business that employs fewer than 500 people.

The Trump Organization employs 22,000 people. But Trump also runs a number of other companies that employ fewer than 500, meaning that -- under the federal government's definition -- he qualifies as a small business.

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finish their debate in Denver on Wednesday, October 3. View behind-the-scene photos of debate preparations. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finish their debate in Denver on Wednesday, October 3. View behind-the-scene photos of debate preparations.
The first presidential debate
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According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, which uses the 500-worker maximum in its definition, such firms employ half of all private-sector workers and pay 44% of the total U.S. private payroll. In 2009, there were 27.5 million businesses in the nation, 99.7% of which were small firms.

Complete coverage of CNN's Fact Checks

IRS data on the highest-income people in the country underscores that small business does not necessarily mean small profits. Of the top 400 people — who got $19.8 billion in S corporation and partnership net income in 2009 — 237 count as small businesses.

An analysis by the Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center finds that extending tax cuts for people who make more than $250,000 per year ($200,000 for single filers) would disproportionately help the richest taxpayers: 82% of the cut would go to people with more than $1 million in adjusted gross income, who would get an average tax cut of $164,000 apiece.

Romney's plan does not single out small businesses for special treatment. His plan attempts to lower taxes on all businesses -- big or small.

Conclusion: While Romney's plan does not define who is or is not a small business, some of Donald Trump's companies would qualify as a small business because they have fewer than 500 employees.

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CNNMoney's Small Business Reporter Jose Pagliery and CNN's Diane Laposta contributed to this report

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