New CBO Report Shows Rich Paying More than Fair Share

June 28, 2010

A new report by the Congressional Budget Office undermines President Obama's constant refrain that the "rich" are paying less than their share of federal taxes and that the middle class is over burdened. The report, Average Federal Tax Rates in 2007, shows that the wealthiest 20 percent of households earned 55.9 percent of all income but paid 86 percent of federal income taxes and 68.9 percent of all federal taxes.

By contrast, every other income group earned a greater share of income than their share of the tax burden. For example, the lowest earning households – those with an average pre-tax income of $18,400 – earned 4 percent of the nation's income but paid 0.8 percent of all federal taxes. Those in the middle income group – with an average pre-tax income of $64,500 – earned 13.1 percent of the income but paid 9.2 percent of all federal taxes. Even households in the fourth quintile – with an average pre-tax income of $94,100 – earned 19.3 percent of the income but paid 16.5 percent of all federal taxes.

The chart below, shows the share of income earned by the top 1 percent of households – with an average pre-tax income of $264,700 – who Obama is targeting for higher taxes. Without question, their share of the nation's tax burden has never been higher.

Since 1979, the top 1 percent's share of income has grown from 9.3 percent to 19.4 percent, more than double. However, their share of income taxes more than doubled, from 18.3 percent to 39.5 percent, while their share of the total tax burden almost doubled from 15.4 percent to 28.1 percent.

But the graph also illustrates how tied to the economy are the rich's incomes and how tied to the rich's fortunes are federal revenues. The recessions of 1981, 1991, and 2001 depressed the incomes of the top 1 percent and so too their tax payments to Uncle Sam. While some of the drop off in tax collections from the top 1 percent after 2001 can be attributed to the Bush tax cuts, the economy was the main driver. When the economy recovered beginning in 2003, so too did the top 1 percent's income and their tax payments.

The President will no doubt continue to claim that the rich are not paying their fair share, but his rhetoric is not supported by the facts.

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