Top 1% Now Pays More in Tax Than Bottom 95%
By Mark J. Perry
TAX POLICY BLOG -- Newly released data from the IRS clearly debunks the conventional Beltway rhetoric that the "rich" are not paying their fair share of taxes and disproportionately benefited from the Bush tax cuts.
Indeed, the IRS data shows that in 2007—the most recent data available—the top 1% of taxpayers paid 40.4% of the total income taxes collected by the federal government. This is the highest percentage in modern history. By contrast, the top 1% paid 24.8% of the income tax burden in 1987, the year following the 1986 tax reform act (see chart above).
Remarkably, the share of the tax burden borne by the top 1% now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95% of taxpayers combined. In 2007, the bottom 95% paid 39.4% of the income tax burden. This is down from the 58% of the total income tax burden they paid twenty years ago.
To put this in perspective, the top 1% is comprised of just 1.4 million taxpayers and they pay a larger share of the income tax burden now than the bottom 134 million taxpayers combined.
Some in Washington say the tax system is still not progressive enough. However, the recent IRS data bolsters the findings of an OECD study released last year showing that the U.S.—not France or Sweden—has the most progressive income tax system among OECD nations. We rely more heavily on the top 10% of taxpayers than does any nation and our poor people have the lowest tax burden of those in any nation.
We are definitely overdue for some honesty in the debate over the progressivity of the nation's tax burden before lawmakers enact any new taxes to pay for expanded health care.