TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

NY Times: Taxing the Rich, Over Time

New York Times, Yes, 47% of Households Owe No Taxes; Look Closer, by David Leonhardt:

That’s the portion of American households that owe no income tax for 2009. The number is up from 38% in 2007, and it has become a popular talking point on cable television and talk radio. With Tax Day coming on Thursday, 47% has become shorthand for the notion that the wealthy face a much higher tax burden than they once did while growing numbers of Americans are effectively on the dole.

Neither one of those ideas is true. They rely on a cleverly selective reading of the facts. So does the 47% number.

New York Times Economix, Taxing the Rich, Over Time, by David Leonhardt:

My column this week notes that tax rates on the affluent have fallen more in recent decades than tax rates on other groups. Here are the details:

Shifting the Tax Burden Graphic

(Hat Tip: Marty McMahon.)

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And who demographically are the supporters of the Democratic Party?
Oh, yes. The very rich and the very poor.
Does the NYT mention that or do "They rely on a cleverly selective [disclosure]of the facts"?

Posted by: EvilDave | Apr 14, 2010 10:00:24 PM

I'm a little confused by the graph. It appears to represent tax rates but I'm not sure if that necessarily corresponds to tax burdens. Significant deductions, loopholes, etc. were available during the 60's and 70's that are not currently available as well as the fact that the AMT was directed at a much much smaller number of taxpayers during that time. Additionally, the impact of indexed tax brackets (for inflation) and the benefit of the earned income tax credit shields lower earning individuals from an income tax burden in the later years. My point is that simply comparing the tax rates by group is somewhat misleading.

Posted by: Jim | Apr 15, 2010 6:28:34 AM

It's possible that the top 0.01 percent, one taxpayer in 10,000, are like the Beatles before they wrote the song Tax Man: Blissfully ignorant, blindsided by 90% marginal tax rates. After one massive hit, they pay accountants to incorporate or otherwise rearrange affairs to reduce the tax bite.

I don't agree that it's a good idea to maintain ultra-high tax rates that only hit the newly rich and ignorant, convincing them in the process that the tax system is unfair. This is the same beef I have to a lesser degree with the AMT.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Apr 15, 2010 7:27:36 AM