David Cay Johnston

The U.S. tax debate tends to focus on the top 1 percent. Problem is, the top 1 percent is a very misleading measure. It mixes doctors and billionaires, masking the taxes paid by the middle class and the affluent.
Everyone seems to know that about half of Americans paid no income taxes and that the top 1 percent paid about 37 percent of the income taxes. But how many people know that households making less than $75,000 collectively paid more federal income tax than those making $1 million or more?
The top 1 percent paid an average income tax rate of 24 percent in 2009. That is almost exactly the rate paid by those making $500,000 to $1 million. Those who made $1 million to $10 million paid a higher rate, 26 percent. But those making more than $10 million paid a significantly lower rate, 23.3 percent.
The top 400 taxpayers paid a much lower rate. On an average income of $270 million each, their federal income tax rate was 18.1 percent. A single worker earning less than $90,000 pays a higher rate than that.

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