Do The Rich Pay Their “Fair Share” In Taxes?

If you earn $161 million a year, you pay the nation <25%

The West Wing

Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society. But proportionally, some of us pay a lot more than others. ThinkProgress crunches newly available data and has a lot to report:

In the last year of the Bush tax cuts, there were well over a thousand people who reported more than $60 million in earnings but paid federal income tax rates far below 20 percent. …

Currently, the highest income tax bracket and capital gains tax bracket each kick in at a little over $400,000 in annual income. But there are nearly 14,000 tax filers who earned more than $12 million in 2012 as members of the best-paid 0.01 percent of all taxpayers, according to the IRS, and about 1,360 who earned over $62 million that year. Their vast earnings were not taxed any more heavily — and indeed, they paid a lower overall income tax rate than their merely one-percent brethren.

There’s more:

a group of about 1,400 taxpayers who earned an average of $161 million in 2012 paid less than a fifth of that one-year fortune to the government in income taxes.

People who made more than $60 million kept more of that income in 2012 than those who made $13 million. [emphasis added because COME ON, FOR SERIOUS?] The income tax code ends up being regressive at the very top — it takes a smaller piece of the very biggest pies — almost entirely because of capital gains taxes.

The upshot? “The statistics on the federal income tax rate paid at various Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) levels illustrate how flat America’s primary tax collection tool has become.”

Remember on “the West Wing,” when Sam says, of his tax burden during his time as a corporate lawyer making $400,000 a year, “I paid my fair share — and the fair share of 26 other people”? Rob Lowe recently used the clip to get in a Twitter fight with Sen. Bernie Sanders, which made right-wingers all giddy. I imagine they’re not often given a chance to quote TWW.

“The top 1% of wage earners of this country pay for 22% of this country,” he claims, using Occupy Wall Street language years before OWS even started.

Yeah, well, maybe they should pay for even more. After all, as of this year, “in the U.S., the top 1 percent now control about a quarter of the nation’s income and 40 percent of its wealth.” If the 1% makes 25% of a country’s income and has 40% of its wealth, asking that population to chip in seems more than “fair” to me.

And though Sam complains that he doesn’t get 27-times better treatment, I’d argue that, actually, he might. He’s able to live in a better school district and buy his kids a higher quality, safer education. He can more effectively lobby his political representatives and get legislation that reflects his values. Even in terms of the municipal services he mentions, he does get a better deal than he lets on. The cops are vastly less likely to shoot him. The Fire Department would get to his house faster than to a house in poorer place — in downtown Detroit, for example, rescue vehicles can take half an hour to arrive. And, as a YouTube commenter points out, his water is almost definitely cleaner than the water in Flint, MI, or Newark, NJ.

I don’t get a chance to say this often enough: sit down, Sam.

These days, a corporate lawyer like Sam Seaborn would pay about 28% in Federal income tax. That doesn’t feel usurious to me; in fact, that feels incredibly restrained. And yet Sam is still getting a bad deal compared to someone making four million, or 40 million, a year. His indignation should properly be directed towards them.

According to Pew, just over half of Americans think we pay “our fair share” in taxes while 40% of us think we pay too much. I wonder how that lines up with the ~40% of this great nation that supports the GOP nominee for President.

Just over half (54%) of Americans surveyed in fall by Pew Research Center said they pay about the right amount in taxes considering what they get from the federal government, versus 40% who said they pay more than their fair share. …

The top 0.1% of families pay the equivalent of 39.2%

2.7% of all filers — people who, like Sam Seaborn, make an adjusted gross income of $250,000 and up per year — account for 51.6% of all collected Federal income taxes. They’re on the hook for a lot. Although they do get a lot in exchange, they should be annoyed that the .01% get away with paying so little.

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