Even After Deductions and Credits, the Income Tax System Is Progressive

People mistakenly believe that because the rich benefit from many popular tax deductions and credits, they pay a lower average (or “effective”) tax rate than other taxpayers. This is not the case. The average tax rate for all Americans is about 10.4 percent. However, taxpayers earning over $1 million pay a 23 percent effective rate and taxpayers earning over $250,000 pay a 21 percent effective rate— more than twice the national average.

Meanwhile, “middle class” taxpayers earning between $50,000 and $100,000 pay an effective rate below the national average—just 9 percent. The effective tax rate for Americans making less than $30,000—who owe no income taxes—is actually negative due to refundable credits that give them a check back from the IRS.

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


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