July 29, 2009
Tax Burden of Top 1% Now Exceeds That of Bottom 95%
Newly released data from the IRS clearly debunks the conventional Beltway rhetoric that the “rich” are not paying their fair share of taxes.
Indeed, the IRS data shows that in 2007—the most recent data available—the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 40.4 percent of the total income taxes collected by the federal government. This is the highest percentage in modern history. By contrast, the top 1 percent paid 24.8 percent of the income tax burden in 1987, the year following the 1986 tax reform act.
Remarkably, the share of the tax burden borne by the top 1 percent now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined. In 2007, the bottom 95 percent paid 39.4 percent of the income tax burden. This is down from the 58 percent of the total income tax burden they paid twenty years ago.
To put this in perspective, the top 1 percent is comprised of just 1.4 million taxpayers and they pay a larger share of the income tax burden now than the bottom 134 million taxpayers combined.
Some in Washington say the tax system is still not progressive enough. However, the recent IRS data bolsters the findings of an OECD study released last year showing that the U.S.—not France or Sweden—has the most progressive income tax system among OECD nations. We rely more heavily on the top 10 percent of taxpayers than does any nation and our poor people have the lowest tax burden of those in any nation.
We are definitely overdue for some honesty in the debate over the progressivity of the nation’s tax burden before lawmakers enact any new taxes to pay for expanded health care.
[Click chart to enlarge.]
For more on this topic, a new Tax Foundation Fiscal Fact includes eight charts of just-released IRS data, and an accompanying dataset breaks the numbers down even further. Read the new Tax Foundation Fiscal Fact or view the data (an Excel sheet is available for download at the bottom of the data page).