Half of American tax payers owe no federal income tax, and most of those filers actually net tax benefits from federal income taxes, according to analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation in a letter to the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee.
This is the kind of statistic that is bound to get traction as Osama news subsides, and here are two ways to look at it.
THEY'RE STILL PAYING TAXES (MOST OF THEM, ANYWAY)
The majority of households who pay no income tax still pay net taxes to the IRS. Federal income taxes account for about 40 percent of total government receipts. Most of the rest comes from payroll taxes, which workers of all income levels do pay. Since every dollar up to $106,800 is subject to taxes, a typical middle class family pays payroll taxes on all its income while a millionaire employee pays payroll taxes on only a tenth of his income.
At the same time, there are Americans -- millions of them -- who really do pay practically zero overall taxes. About fifteen million American households, or 10 percent of all taxpayers, receive more cash from the IRS than they contribute in federal income taxes and payroll taxes. That's thanks to "refundable credits," tax credits that can bring your tax bill into negative territory. To some, these 15 million are low-income Americans benefiting from smart and targeted welfare run through the tax code. To others, they are unacceptable free riders, citizens with a vote but no stake in federal government.