American Tax Bills: Not So High?

Jennifer Liu
Posted

Still cringing at the tax bill you paid this year?

Here’s one piece of news that might make you feel a little bit better about the amount you’re forking over: American taxpayers may not have it so bad—at least, when compared to other developed nations around the world.

That’s according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of 39 similar countries, using data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Not surprisingly, comparing total tax bills in countries across the board can get complicated. So the study decided to focus on two key areas: income taxes and mandatory social-insurance contributions.

These simple measures were then computed for four different family types in each nation: one single worker with no children, one married couple with two children and two working parents, one married couple with two children and one working parent, and one single working parent.

In each of these four scenarios, the American tax amount was well below the 39-nation average of 27.3%.

For example, Pew found that a single American worker with no children paid just 24.5% of her gross income in federal income tax and payroll taxes.

Still not impressed?

Compare that to Belgium, where that same single worker shells out, on average, a hefty 42.4% of her income to taxes.

Keep in mind that these figures don’t take into account many other forms of taxes (like state or sales). And of course, the analysis just covers what citizens contribute to the system—not what they receive in benefits and social services (like health care) that might make those high tax bills in other countries seem more palatable.

But even with Americans’ lower-than-average tax rate, there still seems to be a good deal of discontent with the system.

According to a previous Pew report, a whopping 59% of Americans polled said that “there is so much wrong with the federal tax system that Congress should completely change it.” Just 38% said the system “works pretty well” and requires “only minor changes.”

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