Smart TaxesSmart Taxes

Poll: Rich aren't paying fair share of taxes

Americans want a new tax system, a Pew survey finds. Democrats and independents are worried about fairness, while Tea Party Republicans decry complexity of the current system.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 4, 2012 1:23PM

Updated Jan. 23, 2012, 5:35 p.m. ET


This post is by Kay Bell at

It's no surprise Americans aren't happy with their federal tax system.

A new poll finds the problem isn't necessarily the taxes they're paying. Instead, folks are concerned the wealthy aren't paying their fair tax share.

In a survey conducted Dec. 7-11, 2011, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 52% of Americans believe they pay the right amount in taxes.

However, fewer people now consider the overall tax system as even moderately fair. Forty-three percent of those surveyed said the system is fair, compared with 51% who viewed the U.S. tax system as fair eight years ago.

And 59% want a totally new tax system.

There's no big partisan divide over the need to overhaul the tax code, reports Pew. Regardless of political affiliation, the survey found most people agreed there is so much wrong with the federal tax system that Congress should completely change it. (Post continues below video.)

But there are differences among Democrats, Republicans and voters who call themselves politically independent when it comes to what bothers them most about taxes.

Most Democrats (73%) and independents (57%) said their biggest tax concern is the belief that some wealthy people get away with not paying their fair tax share.

Republicans, on the other hand, listed the complexity of the system as their biggest complaint. That concern was cited by 43% of GOP poll respondents, with 38% of that group worried about the tax-paying status of the rich.

Pew pollsters say the closeness of the answers by Republicans "reflects substantial intraparty differences along socioeconomic and ideological lines."

Republicans who agree with the Tea Party movement are among the most likely to say the complexity of the tax system is what bothers them most; 57% chose that answer.

But Republicans who don't agree with the Tea Party said, by a 49% tally, that the feeling some wealthy people don't pay their fair share of taxes is their biggest complaint.

For the immediate future, everyone is probably just going to have to learn to live with the tax system as is.

In 2012, there will be a lot of talk, mainly from Democrats, about taxing the wealthy more. In fact, they plan to bring up a millionaires' surtax again when the payroll tax cut extension debate resumes.

And Republicans will continue to fight to keep income tax rates at their current levels or cut all of them more.

But precisely because 2012 is an election year, no politician wants to actually take responsibility or blame for any tax changes before Election Day.

What irritates you most about the current tax system? Will a candidate's stance on taxes affect your voting choice?


More from and MSN Money:


Jan 26, 2012 9:05AM



 'A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have...' Thomas Jefferson     And They Will.

Jan 6, 2012 12:02AM
Look it is real simple.  We should all pay less taxes.  The government needs to cut spending, if they did, we would not be having this discussion.  The government will always want more revenue, always have, always will.  Your government has turned americans against each other for their own benefit.  Our government is the 1% and will always want more of your hard earned dollars.  They do not care about you or your families.  We only exist to make the people in government richer.  History has shown us this time and time again.  Give government more revenue and they will spend double that to ensure a large debt that the taxpayer will have to pay for.  No accountability.  Politicians serve their terms to enrich themselves, that's why they never ever quit and why should they.  Great pay, great benefits, zero accountability, lots of vacation, a staff to do everything for them, never have to punch a time clock, lots of time spent traveling, someone to drive them around, which is nice if you start your day with a bloody mary, which I'm sure none of them do, sounds like the perfect job, where do I apply.  And I promise, If you vote for me I will cut your taxes, Thank You and goodnight.
Jan 26, 2012 6:00AM
If I make $100.00 and pay 30% tax on it,.I expect that my friend to pay 30% on the $100.00 that he made.....even if his last name is Romney...or Jones
Jan 6, 2012 4:18PM
Working full time since the age of 13 in a large middle class family, I put myself through private high school and three college degrees.  Without the guidance of a capable parents or their resources, I've been on my own for a long time and recently averaging around $270k per year. I pay taxes in nearly if not at, the highest tax rate at 35%.  In fact, I'm so wildly successful that I cannot even take full advantage of home interest deductions etc, because I am "phased out." Everytime I turn around, I hear I'm not paying enough.  I'm not asking anyone to feel sorry for me but people achieve wealth through hard work, dedication and sacrifice.  Similarly, I recognize that in spite of those same character traits, not all are able to or driven to achieve such success.  What I don't want is to support those who won't support themselves and I dont mind supporting our communities as needed but when is it enough?  People who don't earn what I do call me "rich" and subconciously or not  judge me as unworthy of my accomplishment by demanding I separate from even more of my earnings.  So I ask, how much is enough?  The company I work for values my contributions and it is reflected in my income but now there's a peanut gallery wanting a spiff?  That's what it feels like.  Clearly, our whole tax structure needs a serious "do-over" but the circumstance that permits me to work hard everyday while my fraudulent sibling in laws live with their parents, crying poor mouth getting food stamps and medical benefits without working when their onlly disability is being 30ish and chronically lazy is absurd!  Our country permits that situation and then suggests I need to support more of it.  Eew. 
Jan 26, 2012 8:47AM
The only way the tax system will be fair is if there is a flat tax for everyone WITHOUT loopholes, writeoffs and deductions.  Now the rich get write offs, loopholes and deductions that the rest of us don't causing a millionaire to pay a much smaller percentage of their income in taxes than the rest of us.  Even if the government changed to a flat rate of 10%, the people who are struggling on a small income would be better off and the rich would be paying a larger percentage than many of them are paying now.  And for those people who say the rich pay 50% of the taxes, that has nothing to do with the percentage of their income.  Yes, they pay more in dollars than the rest of us, but if I'm paying 30% on my $25K a year, then they should be paying a straight 30% on their millions.  Everyone should pay the same percentage of the income they make without loopholes, writeoffs and additional deductions. 
Jan 4, 2012 9:44PM

I think the quote rich pay more than their fare share, for those rich that want to pay more, nothing is stoping them. They just quit taking the dedcutions, or just send in money. I am sure the government will not stop them.


I want the 47 percent of the people that pay no tax to have some skin in the game, as they get the bulk of the government give aways, and most often by fraud. If they paid their fair share, then there would not be a problem.


I think everyone, and I mean everyone should pay no less than 10 percent.

Jan 25, 2012 2:45PM

We should start with stopping tax refunds for people that are on assistance. If they barely work, get housing assistance, food stamps, and other assistance; why are they entitled to 5-8k in tax refunds because they have so many kids? 

Jan 26, 2012 9:54AM

As usual, most of the comments on this issue come from people who think they know something because they listen to all the politicl rhetoric and spns of the politicians and biased news media. Few actually know the facts and fewer still understand much if any of tax law, I am not going to try and explain tax law. No one person can. Only that LAW is made by Congress and not the IRS. IRS interprets & administers tax law period. The fundamental problems with our tax structure are essentially two fold. 1. The laws are purposely too complicated and full of exceptions, exclusions. deductions and credits all designed to confuse and use by these same politicians for their own political agenda and personal gain. Loopholes are sometimes purposely created but often times jjust simply overlooked because of the complexity. 2. Tax laws we have are unevenly applied to people and corporations. Why are their two sets of tax law ?


A consumption tax, like European countries have been using for years would totally simplify and apply fairly across all entities. If you buy something it is taxed. Individuals, corporations, etc. One rate, no exceptions, no exclusions, no credits, no deductions. Services and consumables. Everything. I buy a used 2001 Ford for $5,000 and I am taxed at the same rate as the Corp mogul who buys a $100,000 Mercedes. If rate is 15% for example, I pay $600 and he pays $15,000 in taxes. Whats not fair about that ? If a Corporation buys $1B of parts to build washing machines, they pay $150M in taxes on the parts, then the consumer pays 15% tax on the completed washing machine. Tax collected is sent in to a small collection agency rather than the mammmoth unaffordable, bloated, beauacracy we have now called the IRS.

This wil never happen unless we elect new people to Congress who have OUR interests in mind and not their's and the PACs and Super PACs of today that can hide behind our current complex and self serving tax law and structure.

So what do we do with all the IRS, Corp Tax [eople who spend all their time avoiding paying taxes, CPA,s, Tax Accountants etc. LET THEM BUILD WASHING MACHINES !

Jan 5, 2012 11:27AM
A flat rate tax with a personal exemption would not only make the system simpler. It would ensure that all but the poorest paid something.
Jan 24, 2012 11:31AM
Shut up,  go to work, stop being a winy.....Just what is their Fair Share? Is that a % or a dollar amount. How about all the 47% who played no fed tax ....are they mooching of the rest of us who are working their butts off : who worked 3 jobs to pay FOR THEIR OWN COLLEGE: WHO SERVED IN THE MILITARY...YOU CAN COMPLAIN ABOUT HOW MUCH OTHERS MAKE OR YOU CAN EDUCATE YOUR SELF , GET TO WORK AND CONTRIBUTE
Jan 6, 2012 5:26PM
As a business owner I don't pay employees less because my taxes got increased. If I did, my best employees would be leaving for my competitor who will pay them what they are worth. If a guy is worth 7.50 an hour, I'm going to pay him 7.50 and hour. If a guy is worth 50 an hour, I better pay him 50 an hour or the manager across the street will. We live in a capitalist country, and I love it!! If you don't like how much you make, work harder. If you do, and they won't give you a raise, find someone that will. Free market, only yourself to blame. "See Skulls and Petticoats"

It's true.  The wealthy don't pay their fair share of taxes, they pay FAR MORE than any reasonable person would call a "fair share".  The top 10% of earners pay a whopping 70% of federal income taxes.  The bottom 50% pay ZERO!  What's fair about that????  The bottom 50% will always vote to confiscate more wealth from the top earners since they have no skin in the game.  When the "tax recipients" can outvote the "tax payers" we will become just another European style welfare state.  With checks and balances gone, all the initiative and motivation to improve one's financial position will be gone as well along with much of what has made America great.  Socialists (including a large swath of the Democratic Party) want equal outcomes not equal opportunity and are very ready to achieve this by confiscating as much wealth as possible from those that produce only to hand it over to those unwilling or unmotivated to work.  Hell, we're doing it now with 99+ weeks of unemployment payments.  Where's the incentive to work when you can sit at home and collect a check???


"Someone" might argue that paying sales tax, Social Security contributions etc. justifies the lower 50% paying little or no federal tax.  However, the vast majority of entitlement programs come from the bloated federal budget, not the state, local and use taxes.  These largely go to state and local budgets and schools.  The class warfare rhetoric that is being espoused by the "One" who was going to bring us all together is not productive and is dangerous.  Our energy should be directed toward producing jobs, not setting one American against another.

Jan 5, 2012 8:42AM
What about the welfare drone sponsored by the Democratic Party,which encourages dependents to STAY dependent? They suck the life out of the tax payers  stealing by government intrusion ( automatic withholding)   sometime more than half of the worker's paycheck--to the point that the can't meet their LEGAL obligations to their own families?  You want more tax payers---reduce the welfare that they get and encourage work. Encourage tax paying, not tax freeloading. Free housing, free food , free medical and free education in government propaganda schools is NOT the way to sustain this country. I know that the Obozo and traditional Democratic  propaganda says that these people are victims---- Boo Hoo ! As far as I'm concerned, they're victims by choice, not circumstance. The real victims are the working class( you know--the ones that Obozo wants to help so much by  more and more regulation of job producing industries) Ho Ho ! The whole idea that the " rich " don't pay  their fair share is ludicrous. It's just another excuse to steal from the productive and give to the lazy and push those who have ,by their own hand, succeeded, into the same place that Democratic policies of the last 50 years have pushed a formerly prosperous working class.
Jan 26, 2012 9:35AM
How many times should a person be taxed on dollars they earned? 
Jan 11, 2012 3:33PM

As far as can see is one of the biggest problems are the lowest income people that don't pay squat but  every year they get a very large return do to the tax laws and credits available to them. The way I see it is you should never get back more than you pay in and if you're claiming kids... proove that you supported them on what little you made. ie how can a family of 4 survive on less than $2000.00 per year. Thats right you live with someone responsible, don't pay rent, heat, light, gas (basically no living expenses) get a debit card from the state or county for your groceries, etc.....Come on America wake up and quit giving it away to those that don't support but can claim they do and will continue to do so until things change. Also give middle america some of these breaks, I'm sure it would be appreciated.

Jan 26, 2012 7:42AM

Everyone has had a family member or friend whom is always in financial ruin, and every time you've tried to help them out, they continue to do the same things which lead to the same problem.


our government does not have an income problem, it's a spending problem. so no matter how much of whom evers money they get, it won't be enough. This whole "the rich do not pay enough" is just another distraction in order for them to continue doing what they have always done, wake up!


I am not even remotely rich (55k,) , but I do not think the government needs more of ANYBODYS' money in order to correct our debt problem.



When we have money problems in our homes, we do without, cut back, get rid of unnecessary spending. we do not find away to spend our way out of debt.

Jan 5, 2012 2:03PM

For those of who don't play polo, but work for a living, the appropriate comparison is "what percentage of your total income is seized for federal income tax?"  The top 10% of earners may well pay 70% of federal income tax receipts, but that's only because they receive 90% of the income, therefore they are undertaxed.


The author above is correct: rather than bicker among ourselves about our personal idea of "fairness", let's restructure and simplify the federal income tax laws for individuals and corporations so that everybody plays by the same rules.  No special exemptions for the wealthy, no subsidies for industries or corporations, just a simple tax that exempts the poorest (say, the first $10,000 of income is exempt from taxes for everybody??) and shares the burden equally among the rest of us.


If that means my personal income tax goes up, I'm okay with that as long as everybody else is being treated the same way. 

Jan 26, 2012 1:24PM
The tax system is NOT what needs fixed in this country, It's the government SPENDING that needs fixed. As long as they waste money like they do, There will NEVER be enough taxes. This whole class warfare debacle is to distract us from the fact that our Government is WASTING 60% of what they are getting,while giving themselves raises and benefits!  
Jan 26, 2012 3:19PM
The bottom line is this . . . until the members of the House and Senate have to live like the rest of the population, NOTHING will change.  In other words, if THEY have to pay into SS, then SS will be righted; if THEY have to pay for their own health care and not  be privy to the best the world has to offer at no cost, the health care system will be fixed, if THEY have to pay into their own pension plan, i.e., failing 401K's, then everything would be fixed.  Think of how much money the tax payers would save if we didn't have to pay all of these perks that members of congress have exempted themselves from.  Gee, over $90 million a year in postage that they don't have to pay for!  WAKE UP PEOPLE!  IT ISN'T ABOUT THE DAMN TAXES!
Jan 26, 2012 12:06PM

My friend paid around $3000 dollars into federal taxes this year.

she just got back over $6000. double what she even put in.

she has 3 kids. each of those kids get school lunches paid for, medical services paid for.

and then she receives the large bonus check at the end of the year?

who isn't paying their fair share? she didn't pay and she got that much back....

all the services and the cash. this is way there a problem with out deficit ,not the 15% they rich do actually pay.

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.