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Your Take: Is Our Tax System Fair?

When Miranda approached me with the idea for this morning’s story, based on what she recently read in a CBO report, I thought it would make for an interesting (and lively, as all political and tax related Your Takes tend to be!) topic of discussion on the eve of the 4th of July. We’ll be taking tomorrow and Friday off but I wanted to discuss this before everyone left for the weekend, so we accelerated the Your Take to a very rare Wednesday afternoon. Hopefully you’re all still here and can chime in.

Personally, I think our tax system is overly complicated because it’s a series of tax breaks and tax punishments to incentivize and penalize certain behavior. The end result is something that analysts have to review and project the impact (they project to ten years and then freely admit there’s no way the projection is right because law will change in two) and it’s always complicated.

What amazed me about this morning’s story is that you can put that title “Top 20% get more than half the benefit [3]” right next to “half of Americans don’t pay any taxes [4]” and they both are right because they’re looking at two different statistics. The top 20% get more than half the benefit of tax breaks because they make that much money than the bottom 80%. The bottom 47% don’t pay any taxes because they make too little.

Is it fair that they don’t pay taxes? Is it fair that the top 20% get the majority of the benefits of tax breaks? Or is it a big psychological game so that everyone feels like they’re “winning” something?

(Credit: kenteegardin [5])