Progressive and Regressive Taxation in the United States: Who's Really Paying

Progressive and Regressive Taxation in the United States: Who's Really Paying

27 Pages · 2003 · 98 KB · English

GDAE Working Paper No. 03 -10: “Progressiv e and Regressive Taxation in the United States”

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Ó Copyright 2003 Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENT INSTITUTE WORKING PAPER NO. 03 -10 Progressive and Regressive Taxation in the United States: Who’s Really Paying (and Not Paying) their Fair Share? Brian Roach October 2003 Tufts University Medford MA 02155, USA http://ase.tufts.edu/gdae GDAE Working Paper No. 03-10: “Progressive and Regressive Taxation in the United States” ______________________________________________________________________________________ 2 Progressive and Regressive Taxation in the United States: Who’s Really Paying (and Not Paying) their Fair Share? Brian Roach [email protected] Abstract The political debate over recent reforms of the federal income tax in the United States has focused attention on the fairness of taxes. While the Bush administration claims its reforms make taxes fairer, critics counter that the majority of the tax cuts accrue to the wealthy. While the fairness of the federal income tax is an important issue, little attention has been paid to a more important issue: the fairness of the entire U.S. tax system. The federal income tax is one of the most progressive elements of the U.S. tax system; other taxes are regressive including sales and social insurance taxes. Analysis of any particular tax reform proposal is incomplete without consideration of its impact on the overall distribution of taxes. This paper measures the progressiveness (or regressiveness) of each major element of the U.S. tax system, as well as of the tax system as a whole. While the tax system contains a mixture of progressive and regressive taxes, the overall system is slightly progressive. A look at the historical record suggests that the overall distribution

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