Pundits' Misleading Stat: '47% Owe No Taxes'

It refers only to federal income taxes
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2010 12:09 PM CDT
Pundits' Misleading Stat: '47% Owe No Taxes'
Details matter when throwing around stats on federal taxes.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

One of the popular talking points being thrown around is that 47% of households owe no income tax in 2009, writes David Leonhardt. It's usually followed by an argument that the wealthy pay an unfair proportion of taxes while many Americans skate free. "Neither one of those ideas is true," writes Leonhardt in the New York Times. "They rely on a cleverly selective reading of the facts. So does the 47% number."

For starters, it refers only to federal income taxes, but people also have to worry about payroll taxes, capital gains taxes, and state and local taxes, among others. In fact, data from the CBO suggest 'that, at most, about 10% of all households pay no net federal taxes. The number 10 is obviously a lot smaller than 47." (More taxes stories.)

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