Who Pays the Most Taxes in America?

Share of Federal Income Tax Liabilities

Year

Lowest 20%

Second 20%

Middle 20%

Fourth 20%

Highest 20%

1980

0.1

4.2

10.8

20.2

64.8

1985

0.2

4.0

9.9

16.0

66.9

1990

-0.4

3.3

8.9

17.8

70.4

1995

-2.0

1.9

7.7

16.2

76.1

2000

-1.6

1.1

5.7

13.5

81.2

2005

-2.9

-0.9

4.4

13.1

86.3

In 1980, those in the lowest taxable income bracket paid 0.1 percent (one tenth of one percent) of the nation’s income tax. Those in the highest income bracket paid 64.8 percent of the bill.

Let’s say the nation’s income tax bill for 1980 was $100. The entire group of those who earned the least amount of income contributed $1 to the $100 owed, while the highest paid earners picked up almost $65 of the $100.

By 2005, the lowest wage earners contributed less than nothing to the $100 tax bill, and the group on the other end of the spectrum paid over $86 of the bill.

In case that sounds ‘fair enough’ given the income disparity of the two groups, let’s look at it another way.

By combining the three groups of citizens making the least amount of income in 1980, which was 60 percent of the tax paying population, we see that this 60 percent – over half the tax-paying public – picked up only 15.1 percent of the bill.

The two highest wage-earning groups, which account for 40 percent of tax payers, picked up the remaining 85 percent of the bill.

Now let’s look at 2005. The lowest three groups kick in only 0.6 percent of the tax bill, while the two highest groups pay over 99 percent of the bill.

That was 2005. It’s now 2010, and the obvious question is, how can the top income-earning groups, who are also the groups providing employment, production and prosperity in this country, continue to afford this trend?