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This year's election season has brought a focus on percentages -- the 1 percent versus the 99 percent, the percentage of unemployed workers, and now the 47 percent of people that, as highlighted by Mitt Romney, do not pay taxes.
At a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in May, Romney told supporters, "There are 47 percent who are with him [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it." His words were captured on video in secret and reached public ears when the video was released by Mother Jones magazine just this week. The video has put Romney's campaign on the defense, but he stands by his words.
"I’m sure I can state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that, and so I’m sure I’ll point that out as time goes on," he said.
If you are like me, you may be wondering: Who are these people who make up the 47 percent that do not pay taxes? As it turns out, the figure comes from a 2011 report by the Tax Policy Center that shows that only 53.6 percent of the estimated 164 million U.S. households paid federal income tax in 2011.
For you math geeks, that leaves 76 million households in America that did not pay federal income taxes last year. It's easy to hear a number like that and become frustrated, but to really understand you must look at the details. Of that 76 million, roughly half did not earn enough to have a tax liability.
Of that 47 percent of non-payers, 11.6 million are low-income families who work but benefit from the child earned income and child care tax credits. According to the News and Observer: "The Earned Income Tax Credit is the nation’s largest anti-poverty program and helps pull the incomes of more than 5 million families over the federal poverty line each year." The elderly make up about 17 million.
However, it is not just the old and the impoverished that are escaping federal income tax. According to Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the tax center, millionaires are also escaping the tax taking advantage of foreign tax credits or charitable donations to lower their liability, credits Romney himself has benefited from according to the one year of income tax returns he has released.
How do you feel about Romney's statements about the 47 percent? Many of us fall into this group of Americans or know someone that does. Do you agree with Romney's remarks? Are you offended by them?
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