How almost half of all taxpayers pay nothing in federal income tax

Congressional leaders have been battling over the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts for more than a year. Yet, there's still no word on whether Congress will vote to extend the cuts, allow the cuts to expire or work out some compromise package that might do a little of both.

At the center of the tax cut debate, is one key problem facing the current economy: Tax revenues are decreasing. With less income available to tax thanks to record levels of unemployed workers, there are only two ways to increase tax revenues -- increase the taxpayer base or raise taxes for the existing taxpayer base.

Raising tax rates is unpopular and unlikely to happen in an important election year and expanding the tax base would be just as unwelcome. That's because an astonishing number of taxpayers currently pay no federal income tax at all. Earlier this year, the Tax Policy Center reported that nearly half -- 45% -- of all households paid no federal income tax for the 2009 tax year.

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