Lower income Americans are the group most likely to think they should be taxed more

  • Lower-income Americans were the group most likely to say they should be taxed more, according to the Pew Research Center. 
  • 72 million households didn’t pay federal income taxes last year.
  • A majority of Americans also maintain that those making over $400,000 a year should be taxed more.

“Tax the rich” may be the popular rallying cry, but lower-income Americans are feeling the most guilt about not being taxed enough. 

That’s according to a new survey of 5,079 respondents by the Pew Research Center, which found that the income group most likely to say they should be taxed more are those in the lowest income bracket. About 14% of that group, compared to 5% and 6% of upper and middle-income Americans, respectively, feel that they’re paying “less than their fair share.” 

Meanwhile, the majority of Americans also support raising taxes on incomes over $400,000, according to Pew, with 61% of respondents saying so, a quarter of whom saying that those tax rates should be increased by “a lot.” A similar share also directed those feelings toward corporations and wealthy people, saying that those groups not paying their fair share — however that’s defined — “bothers them a lot.” 

Lower-income households often feel the sting of taxes, especially with inflation squeezing Americans’ budgets over the past year. It’s why the country’s tax brackets changed to account for those increased costs — for tax year 2021, for instance, a 22% tax rate applied to those making between $40,525 and $86,347, while in 2022, it applied to those making between $41,775 and $89,074. 

One reason lower-income Americans may say they don’t pay their fair share could be the fact that many of them don’t pay federal income taxes, even as state and local taxes hurt them disproportionately. In 2022, for instance, the minimum for single filing status for those under age 65 was $12,950 a year. Married couples — under the age of 65 — filing jointly owe no federal taxes if they make under $25,900 annually.

Disruptions from Covid have also increased the share of low-income households paying no federal income taxes. The Tax Policy Center reported that 57% of US households paid no federal income taxes for the 2021 tax year, a jump from 44% before the pandemic.

That number did drop to about 40% for 2022, however, the non-partisan group said last year. That’s 72 million households paying no federal income taxes, with about a third of them headed by someone aged 65 years or older. 

Additionally, they reported that about 60% of those not paying taxes earn less than $30,000 a year, while 28% make between $30,000 and about $60,000. 

Lower-income Americans benefit from progressive federal income taxes, which apply higher tax rates to higher levels of income, with a recent banner year to show for it — but the sustained popularity of “tax the rich” policies are also getting attention from the White House. 

President Joe Biden wants to fund Medicare, for instance, for two and a half decades with a tax on those making over $400,000 a year, he announced last month.

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