On the Tax Burden

by Don Boudreaux on December 6, 2010

in Myths and Fallacies, Other People's Money, Taxes

E.J. Dionne laments the failure of what he describes as a “proposal [that] could have shifted the tax burden away from middle-income taxpayers toward the wealthy.”

Let’s look at some facts.  First here.

In 2008 (the latest year for which accurate data are available), the bottom 95 percent of income-earning households in the U.S. – a group that surely includes “middle-income taxpayers” – paid 41 percent of the revenue taken in by Uncle Sam from the personal income tax, while the top 5 percent of income-earning households paid 59 percent of this tax revenue.  And looking only at the top 1 percent of income-earning households – surely “the wealthy” – they paid a whopping 38 percent of federal personal income tax revenue.

Now for a different angle.

In 2008, for the typical household in the top one-percent of income-earning households in America, the percent of its adjusted gross income that it paid in federal income taxes was 23.27.  Middle-income households paid less.  For households whose earnings put them in the top 50 percent, but below the top 25 percent, of income earners, the percent of their adjusted gross income paid in income taxes was, on average, 6.75.  For households in the bottom 50 percent of income-earners, the percent of their adjusted gross income paid in income taxes was, on average, 2.59.

Seems as if the shift in tax burden that Dionne desires has already occurred.


See “Record Numbers of People Paying No Income Tax; Over 50 Million ‘Nonpayers’ Include Families Making over $50,000,” by Scott A. Hodge, March 10, 2010.


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