Income Taxes on the Top 0.1 Percent Weren’t Much Higher in the 1950s

Lawmakers have recently announced plans that would increase the tax burden on wealthy Americans, ranging from higher marginal income tax rates to wealth taxes. These proposals are flawed in several ways, including in their lack of understanding of tax history. While marginal income tax rates have come down from their highs of 91 and 92 percent in the 1950s, changes in the tax base—how much and what types of income are subject to the tax—mean the effective rates on the wealthy haven’t changed nearly as much. The graph below illustrates the average tax rates that the top 0.1 percent of Americans faced over the last century, based on research from Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman.[1] The blue line includes the impact of all federal, state, and local taxes on individual income, payroll taxes, estates, corporate profits, properties, and sales. The purple line shows income taxes only, including federal, state, and local. Stay Informed on…

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