A Guide to Tax Policy Analysis: The Central Tendency of Federal Income Tax Liabilities in Distributional Analysis
34 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2005
Date Written: May 2000
The analysis of tax data is a time intensive and complicated process. Much time and effort are spent collecting income and tax data, compiling data sets and running statistical analyses. However, it appears that relatively little time and effort are spent actually understanding the data and how best to present results to the public of analyses of using tax data. This is evident in the overuse of averages and the simplistic classification of taxpayers into income ranges and quintiles by tax distribution tables that are often highly publicized. This study shows that the link between income and tax liability is much more tenuous that that often presumed and that a variety of other factors can greatly affect tax liability. Specifically, this report finds that, among other things:
- Over 22 percent of all 1995 tax returns claimed zero tax liability - For calendar year 2000, the JCT estimates that 48.7 million out of 140.2 million taxpayers overall will have zero or negative federal income tax liability. - In four out of the five income groups examined, a majority of taxpayers had tax liabilities that were either 25 percent greater than the average or 25 percent less than the average tax liability for each income group. - In comparing federal income tax liabilities, distribution tables often misclassify and group millions of taxpayers into quintiles in which they have little tax liability in common. - Approximately 2.2 million taxpayers in the third quintile pay more in federal income taxes than 5.4 million taxpayers classified in the fourth quintile. - Over 3 million taxpayers in the fourth quintile pay more in federal income taxes than 4.1 million taxpayers classified in the fifth quintile.
Keywords: tax, tax distribution, tax anlaysis, tax policy
JEL Classification: H2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation