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Tax gap: Inequities abound

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Monday, April 12, 2010

A tax system that's letting almost half of U.S. households pay no 2009 federal income taxes at all lacks fairness and simplicity and disengages too many Americans from matters of critical public importance.

The Washington-based Tax Policy Center says about 47 percent of households owe no such taxes because their incomes were too low for them to owe anything, or credits, deductions and exemptions eliminated their liability. Meanwhile, households with earnings in the top 10 percent will pay about 73 percent of federal income taxes.

That disparity makes the system's unfairness clear. That unfairness would be much less -- or nonexistent -- without the complexities of that ever-growing array of credits, deductions and exemptions.

Consider, too, that when nearly half the populace doesn't pay federal income taxes, they have no incentive to reform the status quo or to care when government taxes and spends wildly. That widespread apathy worsens too many Americans' ignorance of basic civics and citizenship -- and helps Washington get away with wanton financial mismanagement.

A tax system that lets too many pay nothing -- and makes a few pay too much -- for federal services that benefit all does not serve America's greater good.

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