Putting a Face on America’s Tax Returns

What is often missing from the federal tax debate is a real sense of who America’s taxpayers are and how different policies impact their lives. Our Putting a Face on America’s Tax Returns series aims to address that.

How do today’s taxpayers compare to yesterday’s and what shifts should we be aware of? Who really bears the burden of federal taxes? Who benefits from credits and deductions and by how much? How progressive is our current tax system and what role do taxes play in the debate over income inequality?

The posts below are designed to provide taxpayers and legislators with the facts and data necessary to better understand federal tax policy and have an open and productive debate.

Featured Research

America Already Has a Progressive Tax System

Who Shoulders the Burden of Federal Income Taxes?

Income Taxes on the Top 0.1 Percent Weren’t Much Higher in the 1950s

Increasing Individual Income Tax Rates Would Impact a Majority of U.S. Businesses

March 19, 2019

A Growing Percentage of Americans Have Zero Income Tax Liability

March 14, 2019

From 1986 to 2016, the top 1 percent’s share of income taxes rose from 25.8 percent to 37.3 percent, while the bottom 90 percent’s share fell from 45.3 percent to 30.5 percent.

How Do Transfers and Progressive Taxes Affect the Distribution of Income?

March 12, 2019

Federal tax rates vary by income group and tax source. The federal tax system redistributes income from high- and low-income taxpayers.

Who Benefits from Itemized Deductions?

March 7, 2019

While some tax preferences like the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit benefit lower- and middle-income households, others, like itemized deductions, benefit high-income households.

The Top 1 Percent’s Tax Rates Over Time

March 5, 2019

In the 1950s, when the top marginal income tax rate reached 92 percent, the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid an effective rate of only 16.9 percent. As top marginal rates have fallen, the tax burden on the rich has risen.

The Composition of Federal Revenue Has Changed Over Time

February 28, 2019

The federal income tax and federal payroll tax make up a growing share of federal revenue. Individual income taxes have become a central pillar of the federal revenue system, now comprising nearly half of all revenue.

Who Shoulders the Burden of Federal Income Taxes?

February 26, 2019

The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay about 37 percent of federal income taxes, more than 12 times the tax burden of the bottom half of taxpayers. The top 1 percent pay higher tax rates than the bottom 99 percent.

Income Taxes on the Top 0.1 Percent Weren’t Much Higher in the 1950s

January 31, 2019

Recent plans to increase the tax burden on wealthy Americans, such as higher marginal income tax rates and wealth taxes, are flawed in several ways, including in their lack of understanding of tax history.

America Already Has a Progressive Tax System

January 11, 2019

Recent interest in raising the tax burden on high-income individuals glosses over the fact that the U.S. federal tax code is already progressive.

2019 Tax Brackets

November 28, 2018

The IRS recently released its 2019 individual income tax brackets and rates. Check out the new standard deduction, child tax credit, earned income tax credit, rates and brackets, and more.

Summary of the Latest Federal Income Tax Data, 2018 Update

November 13, 2018

The top 50 percent of all taxpayers pay 97 percent of all individual income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 3 percent.

A Comparison of the Tax Burden on Labor in the OECD, 2018

September 17, 2018

Before accounting for state and local sales taxes, the tax burden that a single average wage earner faces in the U.S. is 31.7 percent of pretax earnings, amounting to $18,198 in taxes in 2017.

2018 Tax Brackets

January 2, 2018

With the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), many tax brackets, thresholds, and rates will change in 2018. Explore 2018 tax brackets, standard and personal exemptions, earned income tax credit, and more.

Taxes on the Rich Were Not That Much Higher in the 1950s

August 4, 2017

The top 1 percent of Americans today do not face an unusually low tax burden, by historical standards. In the 1950s, when the top marginal income tax rate reached 92 percent, the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid an effective rate of only 16.9 percent.

Increasing Individual Income Tax Rates Would Impact a Majority of U.S. Businesses

March 19, 2019

A Growing Percentage of Americans Have Zero Income Tax Liability

March 14, 2019

From 1986 to 2016, the top 1 percent’s share of income taxes rose from 25.8 percent to 37.3 percent, while the bottom 90 percent’s share fell from 45.3 percent to 30.5 percent.

How Do Transfers and Progressive Taxes Affect the Distribution of Income?

March 12, 2019

Federal tax rates vary by income group and tax source. The federal tax system redistributes income from high- and low-income taxpayers.

Who Benefits from Itemized Deductions?

March 7, 2019

While some tax preferences like the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit benefit lower- and middle-income households, others, like itemized deductions, benefit high-income households.

The Composition of Federal Revenue Has Changed Over Time

February 28, 2019

The federal income tax and federal payroll tax make up a growing share of federal revenue. Individual income taxes have become a central pillar of the federal revenue system, now comprising nearly half of all revenue.

Who Shoulders the Burden of Federal Income Taxes?

February 26, 2019

The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay about 37 percent of federal income taxes, more than 12 times the tax burden of the bottom half of taxpayers. The top 1 percent pay higher tax rates than the bottom 99 percent.

Income Taxes on the Top 0.1 Percent Weren’t Much Higher in the 1950s

January 31, 2019

Recent plans to increase the tax burden on wealthy Americans, such as higher marginal income tax rates and wealth taxes, are flawed in several ways, including in their lack of understanding of tax history.

2019 Tax Brackets

November 28, 2018

The IRS recently released its 2019 individual income tax brackets and rates. Check out the new standard deduction, child tax credit, earned income tax credit, rates and brackets, and more.

Summary of the Latest Federal Income Tax Data, 2018 Update

November 13, 2018

The top 50 percent of all taxpayers pay 97 percent of all individual income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 3 percent.

2018 Tax Brackets

January 2, 2018

With the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), many tax brackets, thresholds, and rates will change in 2018. Explore 2018 tax brackets, standard and personal exemptions, earned income tax credit, and more.

Taxes on the Rich Were Not That Much Higher in the 1950s

August 4, 2017

The top 1 percent of Americans today do not face an unusually low tax burden, by historical standards. In the 1950s, when the top marginal income tax rate reached 92 percent, the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid an effective rate of only 16.9 percent.

How Do Transfers and Progressive Taxes Affect the Distribution of Income?

March 12, 2019

Federal tax rates vary by income group and tax source. The federal tax system redistributes income from high- and low-income taxpayers.

The Top 1 Percent’s Tax Rates Over Time

March 5, 2019

In the 1950s, when the top marginal income tax rate reached 92 percent, the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid an effective rate of only 16.9 percent. As top marginal rates have fallen, the tax burden on the rich has risen.

Who Shoulders the Burden of Federal Income Taxes?

February 26, 2019

The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay about 37 percent of federal income taxes, more than 12 times the tax burden of the bottom half of taxpayers. The top 1 percent pay higher tax rates than the bottom 99 percent.

Income Taxes on the Top 0.1 Percent Weren’t Much Higher in the 1950s

January 31, 2019

Recent plans to increase the tax burden on wealthy Americans, such as higher marginal income tax rates and wealth taxes, are flawed in several ways, including in their lack of understanding of tax history.

Taxes on the Rich Were Not That Much Higher in the 1950s

August 4, 2017

The top 1 percent of Americans today do not face an unusually low tax burden, by historical standards. In the 1950s, when the top marginal income tax rate reached 92 percent, the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid an effective rate of only 16.9 percent.

A Growing Percentage of Americans Have Zero Income Tax Liability

March 14, 2019

From 1986 to 2016, the top 1 percent’s share of income taxes rose from 25.8 percent to 37.3 percent, while the bottom 90 percent’s share fell from 45.3 percent to 30.5 percent.

How Do Transfers and Progressive Taxes Affect the Distribution of Income?

March 12, 2019

Federal tax rates vary by income group and tax source. The federal tax system redistributes income from high- and low-income taxpayers.

Who Shoulders the Burden of Federal Income Taxes?

February 26, 2019

The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay about 37 percent of federal income taxes, more than 12 times the tax burden of the bottom half of taxpayers. The top 1 percent pay higher tax rates than the bottom 99 percent.

America Already Has a Progressive Tax System

January 11, 2019

Recent interest in raising the tax burden on high-income individuals glosses over the fact that the U.S. federal tax code is already progressive.

Summary of the Latest Federal Income Tax Data, 2018 Update

November 13, 2018

The top 50 percent of all taxpayers pay 97 percent of all individual income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 3 percent.

A Comparison of the Tax Burden on Labor in the OECD, 2018

September 17, 2018

Before accounting for state and local sales taxes, the tax burden that a single average wage earner faces in the U.S. is 31.7 percent of pretax earnings, amounting to $18,198 in taxes in 2017.