Don’t Forget the Facts If You Want to Raise Taxes on the Rich

November 14, 2013

In a recent Economic Policy Institute paper, Thomas Hungerford discussed public opinion on taxes and some proposals to reform the tax system.

While this specific series is called a Fact Sheet, there is an important fact that Hungerford leaves out that is crucial for any discussion of the individual tax code.

He cites a Gallup poll that found 61 percent of Americans think that upper-income people pay too little in taxes. He uses this poll to extrapolate that taxpayers do not want “distributionally neutral” tax reform; they actually want the rich to pay more. Unfortunately he missed this opportunity to point out the fact that high income taxpayers already pay a disproportionately large share of the tax burden despite public opinion. According to IRS data, taxpayers that make more than $200,000 only make up 4 percent of the taxpayers and make 28 percent of the national income, but pay more than 50 percent of all income taxes.

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A 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.