In order to justify calling for further tax cuts for the rich, conservatives love to point out that about 40 percent of federal income taxes are paid by the richest one percent of taxpayers. And they often mistakenly claim that the richest one percent is responsible for paying 40 percent of all taxes.
This particular statistic completely misses two important points. First, state and local taxes tend to hit poorer households harder than they do the rich. More importantly, the rich are paying such a large share of federal income taxes because they make such a disproportionately large share of the income.
In fact, as a new report from Citizens for Tax Justice notes, “the share of total taxes paid by the richest one percent (21.6 percent) is almost identical to that group’s share of total income (21.0 percent).”
When all taxes are taken into account, America’s tax system “is just barely progressive.” As Michael Linden and Sarah Ayres have put it, “the rich pay more because they have more, period. What is truly unfair is that some in the 1 percent can use special rates, loopholes, and tax benefits to reduce their tax bill so much that they end up paying a lower share of their income in taxes than average working families.” But Republicans still insist on pushing for new tax cuts for the rich and the institution of a tax code that’s even less progressive.