Survey Says: Estate and Gas Taxes Viewed as "Least Fair"

April 02, 2007

As economists, researchers at the Tax Foundation spend most of their time talking about tax efficiency. But tax fairness matters also. So which taxes do Americans view as fair, and which are unfair?

Last week we released our third Annual Survey of U.S. Attitudes on Tax and Wealth, which surveys a representative sample of roughly 2,000 U.S. adults age 18 and over about their views on tax policy. One improvement this year is that we've asked much more detailed questions about the fairness of various taxes.

So which taxes are most and least fair? Here are the answers, both for federal taxes and state-local taxes:

Q620. Some taxes are paid to the federal government in Washington and some are paid to state and local governments. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where one means "very fair" and five means "not at all fair", please indicate what you think of these federal  taxes in terms of fairness.

 

Very fair

(1)

 

(2)

Fair

(3)

 

(4)

Not at all fair

(5)

MEAN

Unweighted Base

2,012

2,012

2,012

2,012

2,012

2,012

 

Cigarette, beer and wine taxes

29%

12%

24%

15%

21%

2.9

Corporate income taxes

16%

10%

32%

17%

25%

3.3

Social Security payroll taxes

8%

9%

42%

21%

19%

3.3

Gas taxes

6%

7%

24%

28%

35%

3.8

Estate taxes

5%

6%

23%

25%

42%

3.9

Federal income taxes

4%

9%

39%

31%

17%

3.5

  Source: Tax Foundation

Q625. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where one means "very fair" and five means "not at all fair", please indicate what you think of these state and local  taxes in terms of fairness.

 

Very fair

(1)

 

(2)

Fair

(3)

 

(4)

Not at all fair

(5)

MEAN

Unweighted Base

2,012

2,012

2,012

2,012

2,012

2,012

 

Cigarette, beer and wine taxes

27%

13%

22%

14%

24%

2.9

State income taxes

7%

10%

38%

24%

20%

3.4

Retail sales taxes

6%

11%

46%

23%

14%

3.3

Motor vehicle taxes

5%

10%

37%

27%

20%

3.5

Gas taxes

5%

8%

25%

26%

36%

3.8

Local property taxes

4%

8%

38%

27%

23%

3.6

Source: Tax Foundation

The finding that estate taxes are still viewed as the least fair federal tax, despite the fact that they are paid by a fairly small number of Americans each year and are currently being phased out through 2010, is consistent with many other survey findings. Results such as these may have direct implications for Congress as they consider the merits of extending the 2001 and 2003 tax provisions—including the estate tax repeal—that will be expiring over the next four years.

The one surprise this year was at the state and local level, where gas taxes were viewed as the least fair tax. That's the first time any state-local tax has edged famously-disliked local property taxes out for the honor of most unfair tax.

There are plenty of other interesting results to browse here, which we'll be blogging about over the next few weeks leading up to the April 17th tax filing deadline. For a comparison with our past two annual surveys, click here.

Subscribe to the Tax Foundation Newsletter

Follow Us

About the Tax Policy Blog

Subscribe to Tax Foundation - Tax Foundation's Tax Policy Blog The Tax Policy Blog is the official weblog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.

Monthly Archive