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Putting a Face on America’s Tax Returns: A Chart Book

3 min readBy: Scott Hodge

Download Putting A Face on America’s Tax Returns: A Chart Book Second Edition

Inequality has been at the forefront of the nation’s political discourse recently thanks to a number of published reports purporting to show the rich getting richer while the rest of America is stuck in neutral. Indeed, one report suggests that Americans have not been this unequal since the Great Depression in 1929. Spurred by this news, support is growing in both Washington and among the public to raise 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. rates on the “rich” to reduce inequality in America. Indeed, many believe that the tax policies enacted in 2001 and 2003—which lowered marginal tax rateThe marginal tax rate is the amount of additional tax paid for every additional dollar earned as income. The average tax rate is the total tax paid divided by total income earned. A 10 percent marginal tax rate means that 10 cents of every next dollar earned would be taken as tax. s for all taxpayers—are a root cause of today’s inequality. Therefore, critics conclude, raising tax rates on high-income Americans will halt the growth of inequality. As this book shows, much of the perceived rise in inequality is really the natural result of the business cycle as well as social and demographic forces far beyond the role of tax policy. Indeed, there is no evidence of a long-term trend in inequality over the last 20 years, only wide swings up and down. Thanks to misdirected tax policy, America is becoming divided between a shrinking group of taxpayers who are bearing the lion’s share of the cost of government today and a growing group of taxpayers who are disconnected from the basic cost of government. The goal of this book is to put a face on the ever-changing demographics of American taxpayers. The failure to understand these changes has produced poor tax policy and threatens to undermine efforts to overhaul the tax code.

Download the chartbook in PDF format, or view the slideshow below. (Click the arrows on either side to change the slide.) Find images of all the charts, as well as PDFs of previous editions here.