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What Americans Really Think About Taxes: Pew

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The American public considers the federal tax system deeply flawed.

Fifty-nine percent say “there is so much wrong with the federal tax system that Congress should completely change it,” according to Pew Research survey results.

Just 38% think the system “works pretty well,” requiring “only minor changes.” These opinions have changed little since 2011, Pew said.

On Friday, Pew Research released its latest summary of how Americans view the tax system.


Americans’ biggest complaint about the tax system concerns those they perceive as not paying their fair share.

Sixty-four percent claim to be bothered a lot by the feeling that some corporations are not paying what is fair in federal taxes, and 61% feel the same about some rich people.

However, only 20% feel strongly that some poor people do not pay their fair share.

Forty-four percent say the tax system’s complexity bothers them a lot.

Pew found that Democrats were likelier to complain about corporations and rich people not paying their share, while Republicans were more annoyed by the system’s complexity, the amount they have to pay and some poor people not paying enough.

About the Right Amount

Fifty-three percent of Americans say they pay about the right amount in tax, considering what they receive from the federal government. Forty percent complain that they pay too much.

Unsurprisingly, only 4% say they pay less than their fair share.

Pew said annual family income greatly influenced opinions on this matter. Fifty-four percent of taxpayers who bring in $100,000 or more think they pay more than their fair share.

In contrast, only 27% of adults with incomes of less than $30,000 say this.

Believe It or Not

Thirty-four percent of Americans like, or even love, doing their taxes, a Pew survey found—mainly because they expect a refund. Indeed, some 109 million taxpayers were issued refunds during 2013 filing season, with an average refund amount of some $2,800.

Still, 56% dislike doing their taxes, especially because of the complicated paperwork or the inconvenience and the amount of time it takes.

Mixed Reviews

A minority of Americans think well of the IRS. Forty-five percent rate the agency favorably, with 62% of Democrats favorable, but 82% of Republicans and independents who agree with Tea Party unfavorable.

Pew Research said these views had changed little in recent years.

In contrast, a majority of Americans views seven other federal agencies favorably: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Veterans Affairs and National Security Agency.

Out of Bounds

Just 6% of Americans think it is morally acceptable for people not to report all their income on their taxes, according to Pew Research. Seventy-one percent of the public says this practice is morally wrong, while 19% do not consider it a moral issue.

Although people across all political persuasions condemn improper reporting of income, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to consider it morally wrong, while Democrats are more inclined not to see the matter as a moral issue.

— Check out Tax Advice From David Foster Wallace on ThinkAdvisor.


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