NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What Is a Rich Person's "Fair Share?"

January 26, 2015

That the rich should "pay their fair share" is a constant refrain in American politics, but what exactly does that mean? Wealthy Americans are already paying disproportionate amounts of taxes. National Tax Limitation Foundation Chairman Lewis Uhler and Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara detail exactly who is paying federal taxes - and how much:

  • The top 20 percent of income earners earn just 50 percent of pretax income, yet they pay 70 percent of all federal taxes.

  • The top 20 percent of earners pay 93 percent of all federal income taxes.

  • The top 1 percent earn 14.6 percent of pretax income, yet they pay 24 percent of federal taxes.

Contrast these figures with the taxes paid by those on the middle and lower ends of the income scale:

  • The middle 20 percent of earners earn 14.1 percent of pretax income, yet they pay just 8.9 percent of federal taxes.

  • The bottom 20 percent of earners earn 5.3 percent of pretax income, yet they pay just 0.6 percent of federal income taxes.

In fact, looking specifically at federal income taxes, Uhler and Ferrara cite Congressional Budget Office figures showing that the bottom 20 percent of earners actually pay a negative federal income tax of 7.5 percent, and the next 20 percent of earners have a negative tax rate of 1.3 percent -- both groups are net takers when it comes to federal income taxes. The middle 20 percent of earners (those earning 14 percent of pretax income) pay a 2.4 percent income tax rate.

While the president insists the rich aren't paying their fair share, the numbers are pretty stark, say Uhler and Ferrara: the top 1 percent in 2012 paid 28 percent more in federal income taxes than did the bottom 90 percent of earners who, despite earning 52 percent of income, paid less than 30 percent of federal income taxes.

Source: Lewis Uhler and Peter Ferrara, "The rich pay more than their fair share," Washington Times, January 20, 2015.

 

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