Putting a Face On America’s Tax Returns
A Special Tax Foundation Publication
For the first time in 20 years, Washington seems poised to overhaul the federal tax code. Americans are ready to support fundamental tax reform, judging from their responses to the 2005 Tax Foundation Annual Survey of U.S. Attitudes on Taxes and Wealth conducted by Harris Interactive. A majority of American adults believe federal taxes are too high, the tax code is too complex, and the income tax system is unfair. A majority support simplification even if it means giving up the deductions and exemptions they now enjoy.
The biggest obstacle to reform may not be the army of Washington lobbyists who will fight to protect those deductions and exemptions. The most serious obstacle to reform is the fact that America has become divided between a growing class of people who pay no income taxes and a shrinking class of people who are bearing the lion’s share of the burden.
Despite the charges of critics, the tax cuts enacted in 2001, 2003, and 2004 dramatically
reduced the tax burden of low- and middle-income taxpayers and shifted the tax burden onto higher-income taxpayers. In 2004, one out of every three Americans who filed a tax return (42.5 million) had no tax liability after they took advantage of their credits and deductions, while millions more paid next to nothing. As a result, the top 20 percent of taxpayers – those earning more than roughly $71,000 in 2004 – now pay over 80 percent of all the income taxes.
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