Taxes on the rich are near 30-year highs

Wealthy families are paying some of their biggest federal tax bills in decades, a liberal-leaning tax group says.

By Aimee Picchi Mar 4, 2013 2:31PM

Image: Tax form (© Ryan McVay/Getty Images)As Democratic leaders push for wealthy families to pay higher taxes as part of a budget deal comes some startling news: The rich are actually paying federal tax bills approaching 30-year highs. 

The average tax payment for a high-income family has rarely been higher, according to data going back to 1979, when the Congressional Budget Office started tracking the information. The report comes from the Associated Press, which cites projections from the liberal-leaning Tax Policy Center.

Families in the top 20% will pay an average of 27.2% of their incomes in federal tax this year, according to the research organization, which is a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, both considered to be liberal-leaning groups. 

So, who fits into the top 20% of U.S. earners? Families with average incomes of $204,490. Their average tax bill will total more than $55,000 this year, according to the Tax Policy Center. This group of families will carry a huge share of the federal tax burden, at 71.8%. 

Meanwhile, the average family in the bottom 20% won't pay any federal taxes. Because many of those families will receive tax credit payments, they actually have a negative tax rate, according to the group. 

"My sense is that high-income people feel abused by being targeted always for more taxes," Tax Policy Center fellow Robertson Williams told the AP. "You can understand why they feel that way."

The top 20% of families paid an average federal tax rate of 27.1% in 1979, according to data from the Congressional Budget Office that's cited on the Tax Policy Center's website. That had declined to a low of 23.2% in 2009, when President Barack Obama was serving the first year of his first term. The Tax Policy Center's site displays data only from 1979 through 2009. 

The analysis comes after the Senate Democrats last week failed to advance a proposal that would have put higher taxes on millionaires. That's something the Republicans oppose. A competing Republican bill also failed, and the sequester started taking effect after Friday's deadline passed. 

Obama blamed the Republicans, saying that they "voted to let the entire burden of deficit reduction fall squarely on the middle class." 

But according to the Tax Policy Center, the tax burden on the middle 20% of U.S. households has actually declined. That group, which makes an average of $46,600 annually, will pay 13.8% of their income on average in federal taxes this year, down from  about 16% over the past three decades, according to the AP. 

The worst news might be for the country's biggest earners: Families that make more than $1 million in 2013 will pay 37.3% to the federal government, the study found. 

Of course, you might not want to play a sad tune just yet. Average incomes for the top 1% of households more than doubled from 1979 through 2009, while average income for those in the center rose by only one-third, the story notes. 

More on moneyNOW

Mar 4, 2013 3:37PM
Thanks rich people. Now if the government would not waste it on stupid azz pork, **** grants for idiot studies (like mechanical squirrels), safety net programs gone wild... etc. etc. Then you wouldn't have to feel so bad about it.
Mar 4, 2013 6:33PM
The best thing for all taxpayers would be to reduce the bloated inefficient wasteful government.
The Senate, House and President all should receive "does not meet expectations" on their annual performance  reviews and should be forced to take a massive pay cut or be terminated.
If our government was a business they would be gone. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, President Barack Obama and the rest of them would be out on the streets and have to find a real job and actually try to accomplish something. Their only accomplishment so far is blowing a lot of hot air at each other.
Mar 4, 2013 7:41PM
If anything we need to expand the lower tiers of the tax bracket so MORE lower income earners pay into the system they rely on. In addition to that we need to start taxing international money wires, this way all the "illegals" pay their share instead of sending it back to their home nations.  
Mar 4, 2013 4:45PM
Paul, you dont know what you're talking about!  I am in the top 1% and I pay plenty in taxes, if it weren't for my taxes a lot of the social programs for people who sit on their butts and milk the system wouldn't be possible.
Mar 4, 2013 7:05PM
I do not consider high income earners as "rich." Rich means you wouldn't have to work for a long time if you didn't want to. If you live paycheck to paycheck, I don't care how much you make, you are not rich.

The rich pay absurdly low tax rates. High income earners, on the other hand, pay high tax rates.
Mar 4, 2013 7:29PM
Until everyone is a actual taxpayer, the system is broken and unfair. 100 percent employment is what will power this deficit reduction and any way we can help and encourage that should be our goal. Time to quit blaming the deficits on those who are participating.
Mar 5, 2013 9:00AM
What is amazing is that income tax is only about 100 years old. When it was first started, it was just a tax on the ultra rich at a rate of 1%. Now ~50% of Americans pay Federal income taxes and we pay at various rates up to ~40%. This doesn't include other new income taxes added since the federal income tax (social security, medicare, and, for most states, state income taxes). Now about half the country will tell you the rich don't pay enough.

Amazing how far we have come in 100 years. From 0% taxes on income to ~40% for income tax, another ~14% for SS and Medicare, and how much ever for state. If you have a high enough income, you could be handing over 50% or more and yet that isn't enough to some people. It is typical big government. Slowly but surely take away everything you have one piece at a time so people get used to it and don't see anything wrong with the status quot or, worse, find a desire for the government to take more. Truly sad what this country has evolved into.
Mar 5, 2013 9:41AM

This is about as misleading an article as it gets. Including people that 'average' around $200K as the top 20%? Must be GOP math. That's the new middle class. Just check out CEO salaries or that of the top incomes of our legislators. Then realize there are hundreds of thousands of them making $millions, not a lousy $200K. There just was another article about the top billionaires - only about 1400 that they could identify and rank because so many others like them are not reporting all their income or are not paying taxes. What did Mitt Romney make in income again at a tax rate of 14%? How much income was there that Mitt made that wasn't reported - can you say offshore accounts?

The article refers to the top 20%, yet they average around $200K, which would include hundreds of thousands if not several million in the middle class. That means almost all of these people just got a permanent tax break from the President - you know, for those making up to $450K. It's the truly wealthy that are bilking the tax  system and whining the most These are the truly entitled takers of taxpayer money, the so-called job creators that don't give a crap about the rest of us yet expect their SS and Medicare at retirement.


No cuts to SS and Medicare until the government 'means tests' those programs. And show me the the effective tax rates for those truly at the top. Not someone making $200K.

Mar 5, 2013 2:22AM
Wages for labor are at 40 year lows. 
Mar 5, 2013 7:43AM

Obama trying to blame the Republicans when the Dems have been behind every single tax increase in the past 50 years except the fatal one George Bush Senior dropped the ball on.

Mar 4, 2013 8:41PM
What did everyone think would happen if we put the likes of Obama in the WH? Or Al or Jesse or Farrakhan or Rev. Wright or Buckwheat?
Mar 5, 2013 11:34AM
Article worded wrong. Taxes not at a high. Revenue from taxes at a high. But what do you expect when that's where all the money is going. Cannot tax what isn't there.
Mar 5, 2013 2:41PM

All these comments about taxes and tax brackets are completely useless if you don't factor in inflation and the actual changes in income of the different groups. Some groups incomes dropped in the last 10 years and some group incomes multiplied by 10 times or more increasing the gaps among poor, middle class and rch..


You cannot expect people to pay taxes if they don't even have enough to live on.

Once you establish a fair bracket tax system, it should be adjusted for inflation automatically rather than changed continuosly by politicians with the pressure on the money that buys them off.

Clearly the ones that can buy off the politicians are only the ones that have more money that they need.


Mar 5, 2013 10:07AM

Taxes on wages (in any form) are the greatest evil of our American Republic. When government is free to steal from you, there are no limits to waste and abuse in government. If a person chooses to work extra hours or two jobs in order to better provide for themselves or their family, they should not be penalized, but that is what happens. The more you make by working harder and longer, the more money is stolen from you, and given to those who spend their lives living off the hard work of others.

The revenue the government needs to provide legitimate constitutional services should be obtained primarily from a national sales tax instead of a tax on wages. All would pay based on consumption, the more you spend the more you pay. The more luxury you surround yourself with, the more you pay. Your choice. A national sales tax system would capture money spent by criminals and by illegal aliens who currently pay near zero in taxes. There would of course need to be exemptions: Cars (already have a federal excise tax) Primary Residence/Rental Properties (vacation homes would be subject to tax/rental profit would be taxed) Fresh Food (Preprocessed foods and prepared meals would be taxed – only fresh/fresh frozen/canned goods would be exempt) Insurance Premiums, Health Care & Certified Education.

Adding another layer of tax to a business would not be fair. Businesses would need to be compensated by keeping a portion of the tax to cover the expense of collection and reporting. A percentage of .20 to .05 would be fair.

Aug 13, 2013 5:08PM
Imagine that.. we are taxing the rich at record numbers and the money that is made is still not moving the National debt in the right direction.. I guess the villianize Romney and make the rich pay their fair share is not the strategy afterall.. Hope all you Obama zombie followers enjoy the results of your vote
Mar 11, 2013 9:17PM

Republicans controlled congress and the presidency in the years leading up to the Great Depression. During those years they skewed government economic policies towards the rich and those changes caused the Great Depression. In the years leading up to the Great Recession for the first time since before the Great Depression republicans once again took control of both  houses of congress and the presidency  and once again skewed policies towards the rich and once again those policies caused an economic disaster. Money in the hands of poor and the middle class circles quickly  through  the economy and benefits everbody including the rich. When taxes on the rich ar too low the rich take the extra money and buy uproductive assets and invest it overseas. This contry is "of  the people, by the people, and for the people" and we should adopt policies that benefit everybody.

Mar 4, 2013 5:18PM
It is incredible how poorly written and factless this article is.  It's premise is amazingly thin, and the sources it relies on are vaguely quoted.  MSN money is often misleeding and filled with generalizations like poor poeple don't pay any taxes.  That is patently false.  Very poor reporting here by Aimee Picchi. Nice hit peice for the haters though...
Mar 4, 2013 11:44PM
This article is very misleading. The top 20% are paying a higher tax rate than they used to. But they are also making more money than they used to, taking a larger piece of the pie, because their earnings have grown disproportionately compared to the rest of the population.

The increased earnings has likely pushed them into higher tax brackets, increasing their tax rates. But if they were getting the same size "piece of the pie" as before, they probably wouldn't have a higher tax rate.

This is not news. It's just a lame article meant to provoke inflammatory comments.
Mar 5, 2013 11:10AM

The rich are crying because they are paying a lot more in taxes, yet they are getting richer and richer, while the poor are paying hardly no taxes, but are getting poorer and poorer. Let's feel sorry for the poor rich people. NOT!


The stock market hit an all time high today, must be because all those poor people started pouring in all their imaginary money into the stock market? LMAO


The great facade and fairy tales of the rich and famous live on! Cry me a river you poor rich lying and whining bastards!




Mar 5, 2013 12:55AM
You're just plain wrong. Nobody's taxes were raised because of the agreement between President Obama and congress, at the end of the year, to avoid the fiscal cliff. Remember, taxes were temporarily cut in 2001. The temporary cut stayed in place through 2010; at which time it was extended through 2012.  The agreement that the president reached with congress at the end of the year was to let the temporary cut expire on income over 400,000. The cut that was temporary became permanent on all income under 400,000. Hence, income under 400,000 received a tax cut; tax on income over 400,000 reverted back to it's original value before the temporary cut.


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