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# Paying your "fair share" of taxes

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VP
Joined: 09 Dec 2008
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22 Feb 2009, 09:36
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I was originally going to post this as a response in another thread, but since it would bring the discussion pretty far off topic, I decided to start a new post.

skitalets wrote:
Amen, Toubab. Especially the fact that most wealthy people actually do not pay a very high effective tax rate -- this is something Warren Buffet has been on about:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/money/ ... 996735.ece

I believe he has a $1m bet open that no Fortune 500 CEO pays a higher tax rate than their administrative assistant. So far no one has opened up their finances and taken him up on the offer. A corollary argument that is irritating is that the US has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. Given all the exemptions and loopholes available, this is only true on paper. The actual effective corporate tax rate paid by most corporations is very, very low. My wife is writing her LLM thesis in tax on this very subject. There has been a lot of noise during the past election about whether the wealthy and/or corporations pay their "fair share" of taxes. I thought I'd share some data on exactly who pays how much in taxes: Individual Income Tax (Data from 2006 tax year) Adj. Gross Income...Effective Rate...Share of Total Income...Share of Total Tax Paid >$200,000................21.8%...................33.6%......................53.2%
$100,000-$200,000.....13.1%...................21.5%......................20.4%
$75,000-$100,000.......9.5%....................12.7%......................8.8%
$50,000-$75,000.........8.6%....................14.8%......................9.2%
$40,000-$50,000.........7.8%....................5.6%........................3.2%
$30,000-$40,000.........7.0%....................5.2%........................2.7%
$25,000-$30,000.........6.5%....................2.1%........................1.0%
$20,000-$25,000.........5.7%....................1.8%........................0.7%
$15,000-$20,000.........4.7%....................1.3%........................0.5%
$10,000-$15,000.........3.3%....................1.0%........................0.2%
$5,000-$10,000...........2.6%....................0.3%........................0.1%
<$5,000....................(7.2%)..................(0.1%).......................0.0% Looking at the effective rates, it does appear that the tax system is indeed progressive, with the effective rate increasing as income increases. <snark>As for Mr. Buffett, if he believes his tax rate is too low, I would encourage him to visit the following site: http://www.fms.treas.gov/faq/moretopics_gifts.html </snark> Source: http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/index.html Corporate Taxes Every publicly traded company in the U.S. needs to include a footnote in its annual financial statements reconciling their effective tax rate to the U.S. statutory rate of 35%. It's a great way to understand why the effective rate is higher/lower than the statutory rate. Indeed, many companies have a much lower effective rate. This is due, in large part, to their tax planning strategy which attempts to move as much production or value creation into lower tax jurisdictions in order to avoid paying the 35% to the U.S. Here's a small sampling: Company...............Current year eff. rate...Impact of foreign operations...Adj. Effective Rate Goldman Sachs.....................1%..........................(30%)...........................31% GE...................................6%..........................(27%)...........................33% ExxonMobil........................44%............................6%.............................38% Wal-Mart...........................34%............................2%.............................36% Johnson & Johnson...............24%...........................12%.............................36% Once you adjust for the impact of these companies' foreign operations, their effective rate is in the 30s. Source: SEC filings _________________ Current Student Joined: 23 Jan 2009 Posts: 118 Schools: Fuqua Followers: 2 Kudos [?]: 40 [0], given: 0 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 23 Feb 2009, 09:02 I'm in an airport waiting to board a plane, but I can promise you that I pay more than 7% in taxes. My after-tax income is probably something like 75% of my gross. And given the way progressive taxation works (and rightly so), I don't see that the "% of taxes paid" is really that important. The bottom line is that of course we should concern ourselves with how much everyone pays in taxes. Buffet can afford to pay a lot more, in absolute terms as well as in percentage of income, than I can. That said, everyone needs to pay taxes. This is a point I agree with Joe Biden on - it's a patriotic gesture that represents your buy-in to the society in which we all live. Even if you eventually are refunded some of that money - in the form of EITC, rebates, credits or whatever - paying it is what matters to most folks. VP Joined: 09 Dec 2008 Posts: 1221 Schools: Kellogg Class of 2011 Followers: 21 Kudos [?]: 243 [0], given: 17 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 23 Feb 2009, 09:58 To clarify, the % above is purely federal income taxes, and would not include any other taxes such as state income taxes, Medicare & Social Security taxes, disability and unemployment taxes, etc. So it's not surprising your withholding is more than 7%. _________________ SVP Joined: 05 Aug 2007 Posts: 1502 Schools: NYU Stern '11 Followers: 15 Kudos [?]: 211 [0], given: 22 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 23 Feb 2009, 13:58 To add to Jerz's point, thanks to various deductions and credits "effective tax rates" are generally a lot lower than the tax bracket your gross salary usually falls into. So even if you're within the 25% tax bracket when considering gross annual income, your "effective tax rate" (or, the % of your income you actually pay out to the federal/state authorities in taxes) will be considerably lower. For someone in the 15% bracket, a 7% effective tax rate will not be extraordinary. Manager Joined: 15 Dec 2008 Posts: 52 Schools: HBS(08) - Ding. HBS, Stanford, Kellogg, Tuck, Stern, all dings. Yale - Withdrew App. Emory Executive -- Accepted, Matriculated, Withdrewed (yes, I spelled it wrong on purpose). ROSS -- GO BLUE 2011. Followers: 1 Kudos [?]: 94 [0], given: 1 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 23 Feb 2009, 14:35 I would like to do some tax planning for, let's say, the next 30 years. What's the maximum rate one should be expected to pay? 50% ? 75%? I'd happily sign up for a progressive rate if there was a guarenteed max rate that the government could never exceed. That being said... I'd much prefer a flat tax, and would even moreso prefer the fair tax... but then, the politicians would be out of power. Boo friggin hoo. www.fairtax.org Senior Manager Joined: 04 Aug 2008 Posts: 377 Followers: 5 Kudos [?]: 34 [0], given: 1 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 23 Feb 2009, 14:36 The Top 5% richest own 60% of the wealth (so 95% of the population has 40%) The top 20 percent own over 80 percent of all wealth. (Guess... 80% of the population own only 20%) So, was the society fair to the majority of these people at the first place? Is it fair that some people own natural resources and thus re-produce their wealth over and over? (For example, shouldn't forests, oil, coal and land belong to every person born here equally or exclusively given to chosen few) _________________ The one who flies is worthy. The one who is worthy flies. The one who doesn't fly isn't worthy VP Joined: 09 Dec 2008 Posts: 1221 Schools: Kellogg Class of 2011 Followers: 21 Kudos [?]: 243 [1] , given: 17 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 24 Feb 2009, 05:55 1 This post received KUDOS spiridon wrote: So, was the society fair to the majority of these people at the first place? Is it fair that some people own natural resources and thus re-produce their wealth over and over? (For example, shouldn't forests, oil, coal and land belong to every person born here equally or exclusively given to chosen few) Common ownership of forests, oil, coal and land (ie the means of production) is the basis for socialism and communism. Karl Marx criticized private ownership of these resources and described a "proletarian revolution" that would take back these assets for the people. Capitalism on the other hand is based on the belief in private property rights and ownership. Unfortunately, wealth inequalities are a natural by-product of capitalism. As for whether society is "fair", I think fairness should be measured in the opportunities provided by society, not by whether we all have equal amounts of money in our bank accounts. Rather than work to redistribute wealth, we should be focused on whether or not our education and labor systems allow each person the opportunity to realize their fullest potential. Is it unfair that Bill Gates has untold billions of dollars more than I will likely ever see in my lifetime? I don't think so, because it's also highly unlikely that I will ever create a Fortune 500 company from scratch. IMHO, people need to stop worrying so much about how much their neighbor has and worry more about whether or not they're making the most out of their own life for themselves and their family. _________________ VP Joined: 22 Oct 2006 Posts: 1441 Schools: Chicago Booth '11 Followers: 9 Kudos [?]: 189 [0], given: 12 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 24 Feb 2009, 07:19 Jerz wrote: spiridon wrote: So, was the society fair to the majority of these people at the first place? Is it fair that some people own natural resources and thus re-produce their wealth over and over? (For example, shouldn't forests, oil, coal and land belong to every person born here equally or exclusively given to chosen few) Common ownership of forests, oil, coal and land (ie the means of production) is the basis for socialism and communism. Karl Marx criticized private ownership of these resources and described a "proletarian revolution" that would take back these assets for the people. Capitalism on the other hand is based on the belief in private property rights and ownership. Unfortunately, wealth inequalities are a natural by-product of capitalism. As for whether society is "fair", I think fairness should be measured in the opportunities provided by society, not by whether we all have equal amounts of money in our bank accounts. Rather than work to redistribute wealth, we should be focused on whether or not our education and labor systems allow each person the opportunity to realize their fullest potential. Is it unfair that Bill Gates has untold billions of dollars more than I will likely ever see in my lifetime? I don't think so, because it's also highly unlikely that I will ever create a Fortune 500 company from scratch. IMHO, people need to stop worrying so much about how much their neighbor has and worry more about whether or not they're making the most out of their own life for themselves and their family. great post jerz, sound like a true chicago school economist ! Director Joined: 12 Jul 2008 Posts: 518 Schools: Wharton Followers: 22 Kudos [?]: 155 [0], given: 0 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 24 Feb 2009, 11:18 Director Joined: 18 Feb 2008 Posts: 796 Followers: 21 Kudos [?]: 122 [0], given: 25 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 24 Feb 2009, 13:10 don't be silly, there is no such thing as "fair share of taxes" otherwise it wouldn't be called taxes. Director Joined: 26 Mar 2008 Posts: 652 Schools: Duke 2012 Followers: 15 Kudos [?]: 126 [0], given: 16 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 24 Feb 2009, 22:21 I don't really bother posting on these anymore, because it's pretty clear there are two opinions that can't be reconciled. But I will say, though I don't mind paying my fair share of taxes, I will complain nonetheless when I write out my check to the government on April 14 _________________ "Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity." - Frank Leahy GMAT Club Premium Membership - big benefits and savings Current Student Joined: 23 Jan 2009 Posts: 118 Schools: Fuqua Followers: 2 Kudos [?]: 40 [0], given: 0 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 25 Feb 2009, 20:13 Jerz wrote: Common ownership of forests, oil, coal and land (ie the means of production) is the basis for socialism and communism. Karl Marx criticized private ownership of these resources and described a "proletarian revolution" that would take back these assets for the people. Capitalism on the other hand is based on the belief in private property rights and ownership. Unfortunately, wealth inequalities are a natural by-product of capitalism. Sounds like a rich man's opinion. Seriously though, you would feel differently if you were, say, a Brazilian villager living in a rainforest, or a Nigerian living in poverty in the Niger Delta while Chevron pumped billions of dollars out of your tribe's ground. This attitude is as much an outgrowth of our cultural background as it is "economic theory" - and the people who disagree with it aren't always doing so simply out of envy/distrust for those with wealth. Senior Manager Joined: 04 Aug 2008 Posts: 377 Followers: 5 Kudos [?]: 34 [0], given: 1 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 25 Feb 2009, 20:37 terp26 wrote: Jerz wrote: spiridon wrote: So, was the society fair to the majority of these people at the first place? Is it fair that some people own natural resources and thus re-produce their wealth over and over? (For example, shouldn't forests, oil, coal and land belong to every person born here equally or exclusively given to chosen few) Common ownership of forests, oil, coal and land (ie the means of production) is the basis for socialism and communism. Karl Marx criticized private ownership of these resources and described a "proletarian revolution" that would take back these assets for the people. Capitalism on the other hand is based on the belief in private property rights and ownership. Unfortunately, wealth inequalities are a natural by-product of capitalism. As for whether society is "fair", I think fairness should be measured in the opportunities provided by society, not by whether we all have equal amounts of money in our bank accounts. Rather than work to redistribute wealth, we should be focused on whether or not our education and labor systems allow each person the opportunity to realize their fullest potential. Is it unfair that Bill Gates has untold billions of dollars more than I will likely ever see in my lifetime? I don't think so, because it's also highly unlikely that I will ever create a Fortune 500 company from scratch. IMHO, people need to stop worrying so much about how much their neighbor has and worry more about whether or not they're making the most out of their own life for themselves and their family. great post jerz, sound like a true chicago school economist ! Yeah that is a very popular opinion championed by rich stakeholders. But it is not true. It is not fair. Not moral as well. The stability of the society depends upon majority not the minority. So, long term goal oriented governing structure will seek a solution to tax these very wealthy and fund science projects, education, healthcare, pensions and other means of quality life. Having overprotected very few ultra rich who pass their wealth to their heirs does not bring any good. Society should create equal protection and opportunities for everyone. This prolly sounds very visionary but that stage in human society will ultimately arrive, when we figure out that greed and selfishness should go away. _________________ The one who flies is worthy. The one who is worthy flies. The one who doesn't fly isn't worthy VP Joined: 09 Dec 2008 Posts: 1221 Schools: Kellogg Class of 2011 Followers: 21 Kudos [?]: 243 [0], given: 17 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 26 Feb 2009, 05:52 spiridon wrote: This prolly sounds very visionary but that stage in human society will ultimately arrive, when we figure out that greed and selfishness should go away. Have you considered the possibility that the stage in human society you describe has not arrived precisely because greed and selfishness are an inherent part of human nature? _________________ Senior Manager Joined: 04 Aug 2008 Posts: 377 Followers: 5 Kudos [?]: 34 [0], given: 1 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 26 Feb 2009, 07:24 Jerz wrote: Have you considered the possibility that the stage in human society you describe has not arrived precisely because greed and selfishness are an inherent part of human nature? Yes, but have you considered a fact that a society where majority is well-suited is more stable and happier to live in for everybody then a society which protects only few ulra rich. So, other (also inherited traits) such as to be happy, to feel safe, to feel confortable around people and neighbors can overcome individual selfishness and replace it with 'group' selfishness. _________________ The one who flies is worthy. The one who is worthy flies. The one who doesn't fly isn't worthy Director Joined: 20 Feb 2008 Posts: 797 Location: Texas Schools: Kellogg Class of 2011 Followers: 6 Kudos [?]: 147 [0], given: 9 Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes [#permalink] ### Show Tags 26 Feb 2009, 10:46 spiridon wrote: Yes, but have you considered a fact that a society where majority is well-suited is more stable and happier to live in for everybody then a society which protects only few ulra rich. So, other (also inherited traits) such as to be happy, to feel safe, to feel confortable around people and neighbors can overcome individual selfishness and replace it with 'group' selfishness. These utopian ideals are fantastic, but in reality are impractical. However, the United States in its current form is the closest thing in man's historical existence to your version of an ideal society. In human history, there have always been the 'rich' and 'poor', and there always will be. The best society can hope for is to give the poor the opportunity to become the rich and vice versa. This happens everyday in this country and people need to realize having poor people is not a bad thing. Having the same people be poor is bad, but there is nothing you can do to eliminate poverty. The best you can hope for is to elevate the standard of living so high that what was once considered middle class is now considered poor, which we have done in this country over the last 75 years. I know it pains you to admit it, but capitalism is the direct cause for the elevation of the living standard in this country. There is a reason poor people in 3rd world countiries live on$1 a day and in America, the poor can go to Harvard and afford to eat 3 meals a day. It's because that same poor kid can grow up to be Bill Gates, whereas no other country on earth gives every person that same opportunity. Now if you want to tax the 'rich' to try and make things fair or because you have some deep seeded jealousy towards those that are more successful than you, then that's your opinion. But just remember that no man ever got rich worrying about what other people were doing. That man worried about what he was doing.

Focus less on what your neighbor pays in taxes, and more on what you pay now and what you will pay in the future. You might like the results. Also, get off this fair kick because life is not fair, and the sooner you realize that you can't make it so, the better off you'll be.
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26 Feb 2009, 12:16
jb32 wrote:
These utopian ideals are fantastic, but in reality are impractical. However, the United States in its current form is the closest thing in man's historical existence to your version of an ideal society. In human history, there have always been the 'rich' and 'poor', and there always will be. The best society can hope for is to give the poor the opportunity to become the rich and vice versa. This happens everyday in this country and people need to realize having poor people is not a bad thing. Having the same people be poor is bad, but there is nothing you can do to eliminate poverty. The best you can hope for is to elevate the standard of living so high that what was once considered middle class is now considered poor, which we have done in this country over the last 75 years.

I know it pains you to admit it, but capitalism is the direct cause for the elevation of the living standard in this country. There is a reason poor people in 3rd world countiries live on \$1 a day and in America, the poor can go to Harvard and afford to eat 3 meals a day. It's because that same poor kid can grow up to be Bill Gates, whereas no other country on earth gives every person that same opportunity. Now if you want to tax the 'rich' to try and make things fair or because you have some deep seeded jealousy towards those that are more successful than you, then that's your opinion. But just remember that no man ever got rich worrying about what other people were doing. That man worried about what he was doing.

Focus less on what your neighbor pays in taxes, and more on what you pay now and what you will pay in the future. You might like the results. Also, get off this fair kick because life is not fair, and the sooner you realize that you can't make it so, the better off you'll be.

The US has the one of the highest crime rates in the world. Why? Because many of its citizens grow up in ghettos and slums, they drop out of schools and they end up on streets. They will later on try to sell drugs to yours and mine kids.

It is estimated that around 4 million people in the US are homeless.
Also, with one out of every 100 Americans behind bars, it is easy to see there is a lot of room for improvement.

Rich cannot enjoy being rich if they are constantly worried about their kids being kidnapped or their property stolen etc.

It is bad for all of us if society is favouring one group over another and not trying to balance everything out. When u speak of living standard, you are terribly wrong. Average US worker is far beyond in terms of his living standard compared to that in many EU countries, Canada, Australia etc. Average Joe in the US has only 2 weeks of vacation, expensive healthcare, and croocked social security system.

Average worker in EU receives one month of paid vacation, free healthcare, pension and education.
I guess ultra-rich live far better then the population compared in this example, they enjoy inside their mansions, with big pools and their houses are surrounded by big walls, surveilance cammeras and dozens of guards.

If you happened to live in several countries on several continents, you would be able to see the greater picture from many perspectives and avoid callin me to be "in pain", "jealous towards rich" etc.

I understand you have been told all ur life this is 'the best whats outta there' but dont u think u should question it or just take it for granted?
_________________

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26 Feb 2009, 12:21
jb32 wrote:
I know it pains you to admit it, but capitalism is the direct cause for the elevation of the living standard in this country.

I've been trying to stay out of this conversation, but this comment really bothered me.

Liberal or democrat != anti-capitalism.

Why is it that people fail to understand that there's a spectrum? It's not binary. You're not either a free market capitalist or a socialist. There is a huge middle ground.
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26 Feb 2009, 12:28
zoinnk wrote:
jb32 wrote:
I know it pains you to admit it, but capitalism is the direct cause for the elevation of the living standard in this country.

I've been trying to stay out of this conversation, but this comment really bothered me.

Liberal or democrat != anti-capitalism.

Why is it that people fail to understand that there's a spectrum? It's not binary. You're not either a free market capitalist or a socialist. There is a huge middle ground.

Yea that's true. However spiridon is clearly a socialist/anti-capitalist. This is exemplified by this comment "For example, shouldn't forests, oil, coal and land belong to every person born here equally or exclusively given to chosen few?"
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26 Feb 2009, 12:36
Spiridon, you need to stop making ridiculously baseless statements. "The US has the one of the highest crime rates in the world" - really? Care to back that up with a source? I get the impression your perception of America is based on what you see or hear on television. Please go easy on the "CSI" and "24" telethons will you?

As if there isn't crime in those other countries you see as being paragons of happiness. May I suggest you read up on recent riots in Bradford, the streets of Paris, and the beaches of Sydney? And the underlying racial and socioeconomic tensions that sparked them? I'm sorry to tell you, but the U.S. is probably the only "multicultural" society that has really worked. And in further shocking news for you, I am an American who *has* lived on multiple continents and have found America to be the one place where the nature of your upbringing, your economic status, or the colour of your skin has very little with what you are eventually able to accomplish in life. So please end the incessant patronizing about seeing the "bigger picture" from multiple "perspectives" and spare us the misdirected proselytizing.

The average U.S. worker lags behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to a standard of living? Please also compare the per capita income in the U.S. to that of any other country you cite in your tirade and tell me how your argument makes any sense whatsoever?

You are the only one here who is taking what he has been told or watched on TV for granted.
Re: Paying your "fair share" of taxes   [#permalink] 26 Feb 2009, 12:36

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