Tax policy often hinges on questions of fairness, in particular, are the wealthiest Americans paying enough in taxes compared to middle- or low-income earners. According to recent IRS statistics, high-income earners continue to pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes. Kiplinger reports that in 2012, the most recent year available, the top 1 percent of all tax filers — defined as those with an adjusted gross income of at least $434,682 — paid about 38.1 percent of all federal income taxes that year. This is 3 points higher than 2011 when the top 1 percent of earners paid 35.1 percent of all federal taxes.
This group also reported 21.9 percent of total adjusted gross income, also larger than the year before.
The top 5 percent of earners – those with an AGI of at least $175,817 – paid 58.9 percent of the total income tax collected even though that group accounted for 36.8 percent of all adjusted gross income. The top 10 percent of filers whose income was greater than $125,195, bore more than 70 percent of the total tax burden while bringing in slightly less than 48 percent of the total adjusted gross income, Kiplinger reported.
By contrast, the bottom 50 percent of filers paid just 2.8 percent of all federal income tax. This figure is so low because it does not include Social Security payments and because so many receive tax relief through earned income credit.