Letter to the Editor: Here are several issues with the tax-the-rich mantra

James Tuthill

A recent letter writer — and someone I greatly admire — wrote that we need to “tax the rich more.” Here are several issues to consider when we oft hear the tax-the-rich mantra. First, who are the rich? How are they defined? Where do we draw the lines among the rich, the well off and the middle class? These are difficult issues and reasonable minds do and can differ.

The web site, says in an article published in March 2017: “Believe it or not, the richest Americans do pay most of the federal income tax.” Continuing, they say the top 1% of earners, “that much-maligned minority, the richest percent of Americans, pay 39.5% of all federal income tax.”  

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation says: “new data from the IRS find that the top 25% of earners paid nearly 89% of all income taxes in 2020.”  They further say: “lower-income earners carry little of the overall income tax burden, with the bottom 50% of earners owing 2.3% of the national share.”

There is a significant share of wage earners who don’t pay any federal income tax. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation says: “Separate IRS data shows that there were over 61 million tax returns in 2020 with no income tax liability.” also says that “about 45% of American households make too little to pay any federal income tax.” I realize that these figures do not account for payroll, state and sales taxes. But those revenues don’t go to national defense, national parks and federal medical services, which benefit everyone.  

It’s not healthy for our society that a significant amount of people don’t pay federal income taxes since everyone benefits from federal services. Every household should pay some federal income tax, regardless of how small. 

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