An increasing number of households end up owing nothing in major federal taxes, but the situation may not be sustainable over the long run.
In 2009, roughly 47% of households, or 71 million, will not owe any federal income tax, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Some in that group will even get additional money from the government because they qualify for refundable tax breaks.
The ranks of those whose major federal tax burdens net out at zero — or less — is on the rise. The center’s original 2009 estimate was 38%. That was before enactment in February of the $787 billion economic recovery package, which included a host of new or expanded tax breaks. [...]
The vast majority of households making up to $30,000 fall into the category, as do nearly half of all households making between $30,000 and $40,000.
As you move up the income scale the percentages drop.
Nearly 22% of those making between $50,000 and $75,000 end up with no federal income tax liability or negative liability as do 9% of households with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000. [...]
A key reason why there is a zero-liability group at all is because the U.S. tax system is progressive. Those who bring in more money pay more than those lower down the income scale to support government functions such as national defense and social safety nets like Medicaid for those in need. That progressivity can be dialed up or down.
“Some think it’s too progressive. Some don’t think it’s progressive enough,” said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the center.
President Obama falls into the latter camp. He has proposed increasing the income tax burden on families making more than $250,000 and individuals making more than $200,000, while offering new measures to reduce the tax bite for most Americans making less.
…[U]nder Obama’s budget, he would keep the ranks of the non-payers higher than they would otherwise be. [...]
“As the number [of nonpayers] becomes larger, we have to question whether we’ll make good decisions about how to allocate resources,” economist George Zodrow, a professor at Rice University. “Most people don’t understand how skewed the tax distribution is.”
Experts say that to pay for all the things on the country’s growing tab, the money can’t just come from a shrunken pool of taxpayers.
Of course, there’s a very different approach of the two campaigns. As I point out that among those that pay no tax, approximately 47% of Americans, I’m not likely to be highly successful with a message of lowering taxes. That’s not as attractive to those who don’t pay income taxes as to those who do. And likewise, those who are reliant on government are not as attracted to my message of slimming down the size of government…
The president and I have two very different approaches to the future of America and what it takes to ignite our economy and put people back to work.