I’ve mentioned before the factoid about how few American “taxpayers” actually pay federal income taxes. Until now, I haven’t been able to track down any detailed numbers. I found a report from the Tax Policy Center that spells it out.
It turns out that the numbers are even more dramatic than what I’ve been quoting. In part this is due to the effects of recent tax legislation, which (primarily due to an increased per-child tax credit) pulled yet more people off the tax rolls. But also, the figures I’d seen before only showed how many tax filers didn’t owe taxes — ignoring the people who don’t even file.
So here are the numbers: There are about 138,959,000 “estimated nondependent tax units” in the US. That’s tax-wonk-ese for people who aren’t declared as dependents on other people’s tax forms. So, in other words, there are about 139 million potential taxpayers in the US.
Of this bunch, 18,131,000 don’t file returns at all. “Almost all nonfilers have estimated adjusted gross income of less than $10,000. They are also disproportionately elderly…” Then there are 33,544,000 who file returns but don’t end up owing anything.
So, we’ve got 139 million potential taxpayers, of whom over 51 million don’t pay a dime. That’s more than 37% of us.