Single Tax Rate Would Be Real Progress

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Imagine a store that charged some customers higher prices just because they had more money in their wallets. Shoppers would complain about the unfair policy, just as Americans object to the federal income tax, which unfairly taxes some citizens at a higher rate than others to support government.

The federal tax code is progressive, which means that the more money individual Americans earn, the higher the rate at which government taxes them to fund its many activities.

When the income tax began in 1913, the rate on the wealthiest earners was just seven percent. Married couples paid no tax at all if their income was $4,000, or today’s equivalent of $80,000.

Politicians soon expanded the tax to include more Americans and increased the rates severely. Less than 30 years later, the top rate had exploded to 90 percent and President Roosevelt even proposed raising it further, to 99.5 percent.

The rates have come back down, but they remain high and steeply progressive. Well-off Americans are taxed at nearly 40 percent, while lower-income taxpayers pay a rate of 15 percent.

It’s unfair for government to take a greater share of earnings from some Americans than from others. Congress should not only lower everyone’s taxes, it should tax all citizens at a single rate.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.