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The Income Tax Code Is More Progressive than It Was 20 Years Ago

1 min readBy: Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge

The top 1 percent of taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. payers pay a greater share of the income tax burden than the bottom 90 percent combined, which totals more than 120 million taxpayers. In 2010, the top 1 percent of taxpayers—which totals roughly 1.4 million taxpayers—paid about 37 percent of all income taxes. This is a big jump from 1985, when the top 1 percent paid a quarter of all income taxes. Indeed, the income tax burden on the bottom 90 percent has dropped by one-third since 1985.

The top 10 percent of taxpayers now pay more than 70 percent of all income taxes compared to about 55 percent of all income taxes in 1985. Meanwhile, the share paid by the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers (about 67 million in total) has declined over the past 25 years, from 6.5 percent in 1985 to just 2.4 percent today.

For more charts like the one below, see the second edition of our chart book, Putting a Face on America's Tax Returns.