The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan, conservative-leaning think tank, recently released a report that showed Alabamians were the third-least likely to pay income taxes.
The Tax Foundation decided to update its 2010 data after GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was caught on video telling people at a private fundraiser in Florida that his job is “not to worry about” the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax and yet get federal aid. Those people, he implied, are well looked after.
Since that video made the rounds, the debate over defining the 47 percent (which is actually closer to 46 percent) and what Romney meant by his “off-the-cuff” remarks has provided pundits and editorial writers a wealth of material. However, the Tax Foundation’s information is not so much about the 47 percent as it is about where the 47 percent live.
It turns out they are in states candidate Romney was likely to win in November, at least until the 47 percent gaffe.
Most of the states with the highest percentage of filers with zero or negative income-tax liability are in the South. Georgia led the way with 44.5 percent in that category. Mississippi followed with 42.5 percent. Then came Alabama at 40.3 percent. That’s below the mythical 47 percent, but it’s close enough for comparison’s sake.
The worst critics of the Tax Foundation report might be inclined to play the race card, pointing out those states’ high percentages of minority residents who live in lower-income neighborhoods often characterized by poverty and a lack of job opportunities. Others may make the more relevant point that the high percentage of poor, regardless of race, in the South was the determining factor. Still others might decide to debate tax policy itself, pointing out that if corporations were indeed individuals, as candidate Romney once declared, then corporations were the ones getting some of the most significant tax breaks while individuals were paying more and more.
These variances in potential criticisms of the Tax Foundation report indicate that few are particularly happy with the current tax code. Here is one more thing Congress should have addressed long ago, but didn’t. And here is one more indication that Americans are frustrated with the complexity and consequences of our national system of raising revenue.
Considering how quick Americans are to criticize the complexity of the U.S. tax code, one would hope that a constructive remedy might one day come out of Washington. But the public gave up on that long ago.