As Mitt Romney recently noted, about 47 percent of U.S. households do not pay federal income taxes. Some see this as evidence of a welfare state run amok. Others think that gimmicks and loopholes let both rich and poor Americans duck their taxes. Let’s correct some misconceptions about about this group, now colloquially called the 47 percent.
1. Forty-seven percent of Americans don’t pay taxes.
The most pernicious misconception about people who don’t pay federal income taxes is that they don’t pay any taxes. That oft-heard claim ignores all the other taxes Americans encounter in their daily lives. Almost two-thirds of the 47 percent work, for example, and their payroll taxes help finance Social Security and Medicare. Accounting for this, the share of households paying no net federal taxes falls to 28 percent.
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