Policy: Economy

The 47 percent is now the 43 percent: Number of Americans paying no income taxes drops

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Taxes,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Budgets and Deficits,Mitt Romney

The “47 percent” of Americans who Mitt Romney famously said during the 2012 presidential election paid no income tax and wouldn’t vote for him are now the 43 percent.

The share of Americans who pay no income taxes is falling, the Tax Policy Center reported Thursday. Because of an improving economy and expiring tax credits, the think tank estimates that only 43.3 percent did not pay federal income taxes in 2013, and that number is expect to continue to decline to 35 percent by the end of the decade.

Forty-seven percent became a politically significant number after the Tax Policy Center estimated that 47 percent of tax units had zero or negative tax liability in 2009. Many commentators interpreted the statistic as indicating that nearly half of Americans pay no taxes.

In fact, the Center’s Roberton Williams writes in a blog post, “Even if they don’t pay federal income tax, Americans almost all pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, state and local sales taxes, excise taxes, or some other levy.”

The 47 percent figure gained even greater currency in September 2012 when undercover video surfaced of Romney speaking off-the-record at a private political fundraiser. Romney told potential donors that “there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. … These are people who pay no income tax.”

This spring, Romney acknowledged that the 47 percent remarks may have damaged his presidential prospects, telling Fox News’ Chris Wallace that “there’s no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign.”

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