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Over Half of Americans Think Taxes Too High

Douglas A. McIntyre

In the midst of a period when the U.S. government is cutting expenses and looking for more revenue to close the budget gap and slow the ballooning of the national debt, more than half of Americans believe their federal taxes are too high. A new study by Gallup shows that its researchers believe citizens have cause for their opinions. Taxes for most Americans have actually risen in the past few years.

The authors of the new report on perceptions about taxes write:

As many Americans scramble to prepare their taxes ahead of the April 15 deadline, a majority, 52%, say the amount they have to pay in federal income tax is "too high," while 42% say it is "about right." The percentage who say their taxes are too high has hovered around 50% since 2003, although the current 52% is up from 46% two years ago.

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As might be expected, the wealthy are more likely to believe their tax burden is too great:

Six in 10 upper-income Americans -- those earning $75,000 or more annually -- believe their taxes are too high, and the majority consider what they pay unfair. By contrast, barely half of middle- and lower-income Americans think their taxes are too high, and the majority consider them fair.

Ironically, it would seem that the poor would be more burdened by taxes than the wealthy, at least insofar as the burden taxes create on discretionary income and, more importantly, the ability to afford essentials like homes, food and clothing.

Gallup's conclusions after sifting through all the data from the study:

The slight increase this year in Americans' views that their taxes are too high may reflect an actual increase in taxes, either direct or indirect, that has occurred recently. Specifically, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts increased taxes and eliminated some previous deductions. Upper-income Americans, particularly, may feel their taxes are too high now because their taxes actually may have increased. The uptick also may reflect overall discontent with the federal government, Congress, and high-profile laws such as the Affordable Care Act.

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An alternative suggestion is that, during any period, people believe their taxes are too high -- either because of the damage they do to total income or a sense that they are not getting their money's worth in terms of federal government activity.

Methodology: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 3 to 6, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,026 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

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