New York Times op-ed: The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You, by David Leonhardt:
Almost a decade ago, Warren Buffett made a claim that would become famous. He said that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to the many loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy.
His claim sparked a debate about the fairness of the tax system. In the end, the expert consensus was that, whatever Buffett’s specific situation, most wealthy Americans did not actually pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. “Is it the norm?” the fact-checking outfit Politifact asked. “No.”
Time for an update: It’s the norm now.
For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group, according to newly released data.
The overall tax rate on the richest 400 households last year was only 23 percent, meaning that their combined tax payments equaled less than one quarter of their total income. This overall rate was 70 percent in 1950 and 47 percent in 1980. ...
The data here come from the most important book on government policy that I’ve read in a long time — called “The Triumph of Injustice,” to be released next week. The authors are Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, both professors at the University of California, Berkeley, who have done pathbreaking work on taxes. ...
In their book, Saez and Zucman sketch out a modern progressive tax code. The overall tax rate on the richest 1 percent would roughly double, to about 60 percent.