Under the headline, “You May Be Paying a Higher Tax Rate than a Billionaire,” ProPublica is running the latest iteration of the left’s claim that “the rich” don’t pay their “fair share” of taxes, to help gin up support for raising their taxes. It compares (illegally obtained) tax returns for 25 top wealthy people with those for a supposedly “typical” worker with a wage income of $45,000, concluding that those rich paid a total tax rate of 16.0%, but the typical worker paid 19.3%.
Inconsistent with other sources
However, ProPublica gets very different results than far more credible sources.
As Chris Edwards has reported, the Congressional Budget Office, Tax Policy Center and Joint Committee on Taxation, each of which has done similar comparisons without breaking the law, have found that top earners pay more than double the total tax rates than their versions of more typical earners (CBO: 26.6% vs. 12.3%; TPC: 25.0% vs. 12.3%; JCT: 30.3% vs. 12.2%).
If we were only to look at income taxes, which is what most people think about when they hear of tax rates, a picture even more sharply out of sync with ProPublica’s headline emerges. Their own report claims their typical worker pays less than half the income tax rate as their rich do (6.9% vs. 15.8%). More reliable sources show an even greater differential (CBO: 3.3% vs. 24.4%; TPC: 3.5% vs. 24.0%; JCT: 5.0% vs. 29.5%). And the fact that “the rich” pay more than five times the rate of the average worker in each of those more reliable studies does not show them as unjustly benefited by the tax code.