The Taxman's Bite

| Tue May 11, 2010 2:56 PM EDT

USA Today says that taxes are down:

Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.

Not quite. According to the BEA, personal income in 2009 totalled $12 trillion and personal current taxes totalled $1.1 trillion. Sure enough, that's 9.2%. But, ahem, there's also $967 billion in "contributions for government social insurance." That's taxes to you and me. So that's $2.1 trillion in taxes, or about 17% of personal income.

But according to the OMB, federal tax receipts in 2009 totalled $2.1 trillion. And according to the Census Bureau, state and local tax receipts in 2009 totalled $1.2 trillion. That's $3.3 trillion, not $2.1 trillion. Do we really have $1.2 trillion in taxes not being paid by individuals? State and federal corporate taxes only amounted to about $200 billion. Are they not counting the employer portion of payroll taxes?

In any case, our total tax bite, which is eventually paid by individuals no matter what channel it goes through, was $3.3 trillion in 2009. That's 27.5% of personal income, not 9.2%. Caveat emptor.

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