Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Do the Rich Pay More Taxes?*

In America, yes they do.

And compared to other developed countries, the rich pay a bigger share here.

The chart on the left shows the proportions of taxes paid by each quintile of the income distribution: the share paid by the rich has always been big, and is getting bigger. This is mostly by reducing the share of taxes paid by those in the 20th to 60th percentiles: the lower middle-class.

The chart in the middle shows the share of pretax income by quintile. Yes, there is a moderate trend of the rich getting richer, but it is not as big a trend as that of “the taxed getting taxer” or … um … something catchier than that. There aren’t any big losers in income, but the biggest is the middle fifth of the population.

Those two charts establish my first statement. The chart on the right addresses the second statement. When we divide the share of taxes paid by a quintile by the share of income that it brings home, we see that the taxes are more disproportionately paid be the rich in America.

* There are a couple of caveats to this. First off, this is only income taxes. The rich pay a lot of other taxes too, but they also get their cash flow from a lot of other sources that aren’t taxed as income. Even so, most of our discussions about “making the rich pay their fair share” focus on income rather than cash flow. Second, this ignores that most of what makes the tax burden in America heavier on the poor is that our FICA is taken out of (primarily paycheck) income and has a cutoff in the low 6 figures.

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