Who pays the most federal income tax

Does 20% of the US population pay 80% of federal income tax?

For federal income tax, you can get the actual numbers from the IRS Tax stats- Retrieve website. There are a few complications to finding this out, including:

  • The IRS numbers are divided into sections based on income, so it is difficult to get exactly 20%.
  • These numbers only include people who have filed a tax return. Those with no income are not included in these numbers, but I'll assume you intended to include them in your 20% number
  • Lots of people filing together, these numbers are based on number of returns, not people.

What I was able to calculate in my trustworthy Excel spreadsheet that comes close to an answer is this:

The top 16.7% of Adjusted Gross Income (over $ 100,000) pays 69% of federal income taxes.
The top 27.7% of Adjusted Gross Income ($ 75,000 +) pays 79.5% of federal income taxes.

To get technical, the claim that 20% will pay 80% is wrong because the best 27% do not pay that much. That said, the numbers aren't so far away that the underlying point has no value.

The numbers get lopsided when you look at the top of the income earners, with the top 1% paying nearly 27.6% of all federal income taxes.

Note: These are the figures for 2009. They obviously vary from year to year.

Dan Molding

You shouldn't have to do any calculations on the numbers from the IRS tables to answer the question. If you look at the table for "All Returns: Selected Income and Tax Items," classified by Adjusted Gross Income (irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/09in11si.xls), you can see that taxpayers with a Income greater than $ 75,000 tops out at 20.6% (cell 60C). You will then see that the same group of taxpayers pays 84% ​​of all income taxes (cell 60R). This is straight from the IRS without doing any other calculations.

Dan Molding

Looking at the same table, I also noticed that you can also see that the top 0.5% (cell 57C) pays 29.8% (!!) of all income taxes (cell 57R). That is very wrong indeed. (We cannot get the data for the top 1% as the groupings jump from 0.5% to 2.8%).