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April 21, 2010


I agree with Brendan's criticism of that question. Heaven only knows what it was supposed to mean.

One minor quibble with Brendan's post. He wrote: federal income taxes are only part of the overall tax burden; the average effective federal tax rate including payroll taxes, capital gains taxes, etc. is 22%.

The first clause deals with the entire overall tax burden. The second clause deals only with the federal overall tax burden. I would guess that when one adds in state and local sales taxes, state income tax, city wage tax, property tax and other miscellaneous taxes, the mean overall tax burden might be somewhere near double the federal figure -- say, 40% - 50%.

Unfortunately, these taxes are slated to get a lot bigger. The enormous federal and state deficits, the under-funded government pension and health plans, and the rising cost of entitlement spending will drive tax rates through the roof.

Brendan, you and David Leonhardt need to get this right. The effective individual income tax rate in the chart to which you link includes capital gains taxes, which are a component of federal income taxes. You can see this by looking at your Form 1040, which sums wages and salaries, interest and dividends, business income, capital gains, rents and royalties, partnership income, gambling winnings, etc., to arrive (after certain adjustments, deductions and exemptions) at taxable income.

When Leonhardt imagines that capital gains taxes aren't included in federal income taxes, he shows his ignorance.

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