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It's time for tax reform that benefits the middle class

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Thomas Neale's recent letter to the editor employs uses usual Republican tactic of throwing out irrelevant statistics to confuse the issue of tax fairness ("The wealthy pay more than their fair share," May 14). It doesn't matter that the top 1 percent of taxpayers pay 38 percent of the income taxes. What matters is what percentage of their income do they pay in taxes — and not just income taxes, but all taxes.

In the tax year of 2010, only 42 percent of federal revenue came from income taxes. The rest came from payroll taxes: Social Security and Medicare, 40 percent; corporate income taxes,11percent; excise taxes, 3 percent and other, 4 percent.

The point is that most of the top 1 percent do not pay payroll taxes at all, or they pay at a rate of less than 1 percent. So, if you look at the total percentage of federal taxes collected from individuals, the wealthy actually pay a much lower percentage of the federal tax burden than Mr. Neale's figures imply — only about 16 percent.

Moreover, when you consider state and local taxes (gasoline taxes, property taxes, sewer taxes, car registration taxes and highway tolls — many of which the poor and middle class pay at the same rate as the most wealthy), the total tax burden borne by the wealthy as a percentage of their income drops to a ridiculously low level, way below what the rest of us play.

The people who actually pay the highest rate of federal taxes are the two-income earners in the $100,000 to $350,000 range. They make 35 percent of the income but pay 53 percent of the federal income tax.

Mr. Neale also notes another irrelevant statistic: that 48 percent of Americans pay no income tax at all. He says that knowing it will rile up middle-class taxpayers into thinking that they are supporting a bunch of freeloaders.

But who are these freeloaders? Well, 20 percent of Americans are children 15 or under. Most of them aren't paying income taxes.

Ten percent of Americans are unemployed — and that's only counting the ones who are have been out of work for less than 6 months; the rest aren't counted. And none of them are paying income taxes. Let's call that 13 percent.

Next, the women (and some men) who stay at home to care for children. Five percent of Americans fall into that category. Finally there's the less than 1 percent of people who are employed but make so little that they pay no income taxes.

So, which of these people does Mr. Neale think are the non-tax-paying underclass that are sapping our civic spirit? The children? The stay-at-home moms? Or the unemployed? I guess he must be talking about the 1 percent who are too poor to pay any income tax.

It's time for the American people to wake up and demand tax fairness based on the income and taxes people actually pay, not on some cooked up statistic that only tells part of the story.

Stan Sunderwirth, Oella

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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