Friday, January 2, 2015

Tax shares update: still highly progressive

The Tax Foundation has just updated its calculations of who paid how much in federal income taxes in 2012. The results are very similar to what we've seen in the past.

I've put the results into two charts:

The chart above shows the top federal income tax rate (black line), and the share of total federal income taxes paid by upper-income earners. Note that the top 25% of income earners paid about 85% of all federal income taxes. Note also that "the rich" are paying a far greater percentage of total taxes today than they were three decades ago, despite a huge decline in the top federal income rate. Laffer was right: income taxes were way too high in the early 1980s. As a percentage of GDP, the federal government collects more taxes today (17.5%) than it did in 1983 (16.9%).

The chart above shows the share of total income (AGI) earned by each of the top tiers of income earners. For example, to make it into the top 1% in 2012 you had to earn at least $435K of Adjusted Gross Income. Those that made it received about 20% of all income but paid almost 40% of total income taxes.

Our tax code remains highly progressive, and this is not necessarily a good thing.

Here are the key points from the Tax Foundation:

-In 2012, 136.1 million taxpayers reported earning $9.04 trillion in adjusted gross income and paid $1.1 trillion in income taxes. 
-All income groups increased their income and taxes paid over the previous year. 
-The top 1 percent of taxpayers earned their largest share of income since 2007 at 21.9 percent of total AGI and paid their largest share of the income tax burden since the same year at 38.1 percent of total income taxes. 
-In 2012, the top 50 percent of all taxpayers (68 million filers) paid 96.7 percent of all income taxes while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 3.3 percent. 
-The top 1 percent (1.3 million filers) paid a greater share of income taxes (38.1 percent) than the bottom 90 percent (122.4 million filers) combined (29.8 percent). 
-The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid a higher effective income tax rate than any other group at 22.8 percent, which is nearly 7 times higher than taxpayers in the bottom 50 percent (3.28 percent).

Update: Be sure to check out this post from last November which highlights how steeply progressive our tax code is when comprehensive measures of income and transfer payments are included in the analysis. (HT: reader "randy")


Benjamin Cole said...

Yes, but for FICA and state and local taxes, the results are different. When all taxes are taken into consideration we end up with a tax system that is mad in the complex and arbitrary, and one that penalizes produtive behavior, but not much regressive or progressive.

randy said...

It is extremely difficult to sort through the noise and complexity to get a clear picture of relative tax burdens. It's never made sense to me to look just at income taxes and ignore payroll taxes (as Benjamin notes), or to ignore transfer payments made that offset taxes paid. For me, the best complete picture I've seen was in this other post from Scott.

Scott Grannis said...

randy: thanks for reminding me of that post. I've added the link to the above post.