Earlier this week, Mother Jones released a tape in which Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized the estimated 47% of Americans who don't pay federal income tax. While Romney's comments may have cost him some political points, they also re-energized a long-running public debate over who pays into America's system, and who reaps its rewards. With that in mind, we compiled a short quiz about the taxation system. If you think you know how America's taxation works -- or just want to learn a little more -- take a peek!
Pop Quiz: Who Are the 47% -- And How Much Do They REALLY Pay?
Pop Quiz: Who Are the 47%, and What Do They Really Pay in Taxes?
Most tax filers pay payroll taxes like Social Security and Medicare. In fact, only 18.1% don't send anything to the Federal government. Of these, almost 57% are elderly, and don't bring home a regular paycheck.
A. 1.2 million
More than 162,000 people who are among the top 10% of all earners -- basically, those who make over $163,173 -- didn't pay any federal income tax in 2011. Among the top 0.1% of filers -- the richest households in the country -- 3,000 (2.3% of them) didn't pay income tax in 2011.
A. Red states
B. Blue states
C. They're about equally distributed
Of the 20 states with the highest percentage of non-income tax-paying filers, twelve are firmly in the red camp. On the opposite end of the spectrum, just three of the 20 lowest-percentage states skew red.
In terms of total effective tax rate -- the total percentage of income that a taxpayer sends to the federal government, from excise taxes, corporate taxes, payroll taxes, and other levies -- the poorest fifth of Americans pays an average of 17.4%. The top 1% pays 29%, so they pay 11.6% more than the poorest 20%.
The top 20% of taxpayers pay 63.1% of all taxes and take home 59.6% of all income. In fact, all income groups pay a percentage of the total federal tax revenue that is almost equal to the percentage of America's income that they take home.
A. The bottom 20% of earners
B. The top 1% of earners
While state taxes vary depending on where you live, every state hits the working class harder than the top 1%. The best state is Vermont, where the richest 1% pay 7.5% of their income and the poorest 20% pay 8.2% -- or 1.1 times as much. The worst state is Washington, where the richest pay a measly 2.6% of their income and the poorest pay a staggering 17.3% -- or 6.7 times as much.
In terms of total effective tax rate -- the actual percentage of income paid into taxes, accounting for all credits, exemptions, deductions, and so forth -- the richest 1% of the country pays 29% of its income. The middle 20% pays 28.3%, or 0.7% less. For that matter, it's worth noting that the poorest 20%, the group least likely to pay federal income tax, still sends 17.4% of its wages to the taxman.
Note: The content of this video applies only to taxes prepared for 2009 and 2010. It is included here for reference only. In November 2009, the federal government extended and expanded the popular First-Time Homebuyer's Credit program. It lets you trim your tax bill by up to $8,000, a boon to homeowners facing mortgage payments for the first time.
Note: The content of this article applies to taxes prepared for 2010. It is included here for reference only. The Homebuyer Tax Credit was extended and expanded on November 6, 2009, but qualifying for it can still be tricky. If you're hoping to claim the credit in 2010, these tips could help you.
Note: The content of this article applies only to taxes prepared for 2008. It is included here for reference only. You might be hearing a lot about "second-chance rebates" and wondering if you qualify. The truth is that most people won't.
If you usually get a tax refund, but would like to start putting more money in your pocket every month, we can help. Yes, you still have to fill out a W-4 form. But we've developed a quick and easy guide to assist you.