If you’ve followed the last few presidential elections, you have probably heard a regurgitated talking point about how the United States should raise taxes on the bottom half of households because they don’t pay taxes.
During the 2012 presidential race, every major Republican candidate expressed their frustrations that almost half of US households did not owe federal income tax in 2009.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney took this one step further when he made his infamous “47 percent” comments.
In them, he said that President Obama’s base was made up of the 47 percent of Americans who “paid no income taxes” and “were dependent on the government for healthcare, food, and housing.” Romney also said that these people would “vote for Obama no matter what.” Romney received backlash for the leaked video and admitted that they did real damage to his campaign.
The idea that the left only votes in this way is pervasive on the right, but this assumption and the myth that the left doesn’t pay taxes is completely false.
The vast majority of people who pay no federal income tax have low earnings. When all federal taxes are taken into consideration, even the lowest fifth of households (where average incomes are about $18,000) pay 4 percent of income in federal taxes, while the second-lowest fifth (average income: $43,000) pay 11 percent.
As for local and state taxes, low-income families typically pay more of their income in taxes than higher-income families. When state, local, and federal taxes are combined, the poorest fifth of households pay almost 15 percent of income in taxes, whereas the next fifth pays 21 percent.
If anything, this shows that federal income tax is one of the few taxes that doesn’t impose larger burdens on low to moderate income households than on upper income ones.
However, there are numerous hidden taxes that we all pay ranging from fees built into the prices of cell phones, alcohol and tobacco products, and even gas. Not only do we pay these taxes in our communities, but taxation follows us around the United States.
For example, I was recently in New York City and made a comment about how my tax dollars certainly weren’t paying to update the cracked sidewalks. My friend argued that we don’t pay taxes in New York because we live and work in Indiana. I pointed out that we had been paying New York City sales tax on all of the food and beverages we purchased since arriving. (Almost a full two percent more than what we pay back in Indianapolis.)
The simple fact is that it doesn’t matter whether we identify politically as liberal, conservative, libertarian, or independent, we all pay taxes… and we pay too much.
According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Americans said that they paid more than their fair share of taxes in 2015. That same year, the federal government collected $1.54 trillion from individual income taxes, making it the national government’s single-biggest source of revenue.
In a separate survey, 60 percent of Americans felt that “some wealthy people” and “some corporations” don’t pay their fair share. In the 2015 fiscal year, the government collected $343.8 billion from corporate income taxes, or 10.6 percent of its total revenue.
This is just one of the many examples of the problems that arise with coercive taxation, and it’s beyond time that we actually make the government work for our money.
Currently, the IRS gets our tax dollars one way or another. Although everyone’s situation may be different, not paying could result in the IRS issuing penalty fees or adding interest on your taxes. You could also receive tax liens, have property seized, have to file for bankruptcy, or — worst of all — serve jail time.