Comparing Income Taxes under Bill Clinton and George Bush

February 19, 2008

Recently an incorrect comparison of income taxes under Presidents Clinton and Bush has been making the rounds of the internet, showing up in forwarded e-mails and on numerous blogs and message boards. (See examples here, here, here, and here.)

This message shows that income taxes under George Bush are lower than income taxes under Bill Clinton, and it relies on Tax Foundation data to make this comparison. The author used a Tax Foundation chart showing the federal individual income tax rates and brackets from 1913 to the present to calculate the income taxes paid by hypothetical married and single taxpayers at various income levels under 1999 tax law and 2008 tax law.

While the basic message of the comparison is correct (federal income taxes have indeed fallen under George Bush for groups at all points on the income spectrum), the chart created by the author of this comparison contains some mathematical errors. Furthermore, the comparisons are exaggerated by the fact that annual inflation adjustments in the tax code would have lowered tax bills in 2008 relative to 1999 under a constant nominal income amount.

The table below presents the correct amount of tax paid by each of the hypothetical taxpayers in the comparison. Note that this comparison does not take into account the Alternative Minimum Tax, and the taxpayers in these examples take the standard deduction and do not have children.

(Click here if you’re having trouble viewing the table.)

Individual Income Tax Due in 2008,
Bush Law versus Clinton Law
For taxpayers who take the standard deduction and have no children
Taxpayer Tax That Would Have Been Owed under Clinton-Era Tax Law Tax Owed under Current Law, with Bush Tax Cuts
Single, income of 30,000 $3,157.50 $2,756.25
Single, income of 50,000 $7,262.50 $6,606.25
Married, income of $50,000 $5,085.00 $4,012.50
Married, income of $60,000 $6,585.00 $5,512.50
Single, income of $75,000 $14,262.50 $12,856.25
Married, income of $75,000 $9,426.50 $7,762.50
Single, income of $125,000* $29,378.50 $26,472.25
Married, income of $125,000* $23,426.50 $19,462.50
*This chart does not take into account the Alternative Minimum Tax

The following Tax Foundation studies, blog posts and data sets can also shed some light on the impact of the Bush tax cuts.

U.S. Federal Individual Income Tax Rates History, 1913-2008

The Effect of Temporary Tax Relief on a Typical American Family of Four

The Effect on a Typical Family of Four of Accelerating Scheduled Tax Cuts and Making Temporary Tax Relief Permanent

Impact of Bush Tax Cuts on AMT and Non-AMT Returns for 2007 Under Current Law

Married Couples Pay Majority of Federal Income Taxes, Received Majority of Bush Tax Cuts

The Tax Code’s Day of Reckoning: January 1, 2011

Comparing the Kennedy, Reagan and Bush Tax Cuts

Comparing Popular Tax Deductions to the Bush Tax Cuts

In addition, see the income tax section of our website.

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