NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Top Earners Pay Most Income Taxes

December 8, 1998

The latest data from the Internal Revenue Service show that the 5 percent of taxpayers who earn the most pay more than half of all federal individual income taxes, and the top 1 percent pay almost a third.

In 1996, the latest year for which data are available:

  • The top 1 percent -- 1.194 million taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes above $229,230 -- paid 32.3 percent of all federal individual income taxes.
  • The top 5 percent -- 5.972 million with adjusted gross incomes above $101,202 -- paid 50.8 percent.
  • The top 10 percent -- 11.944 million with adjusted gross incomes above $74,981 -- paid 62.4 percent.
  • The top 50 percent -- 59.721 million with adjusted gross incomes above $23,160 -- paid 95.7 percent.
  • The bottom 50 percent of earners paid 4.3 percent.

In 1986, the top 1 percent paid 25 percent of all federal individual income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent paid 6.6 percent. The average tax rate was lower for every income class in 1996 than in 1986. For example, the highest earners paid an average rate of 28.7 percent in 1996, compared to 31.6 percent 10 years earlier.

Source: "Five Percent of Taxpayers Pay Over Half of Federal Individual Income Taxes," Tax Features, October 1998, Tax Foundation, 1250 H Street, N.W., Suite 750, Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 783-2760.

 

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