Do these folks file tax returns?

Keywords Opinion

Morton Marcus [in his May 23 column] may have omitted some things in analyzing the statement about “half the people” not paying taxes. I had heard that “fact” and wondered what the truth was; so thanks to Marcus for reporting on this.

However, some questions remain unanswered. How many working adults never file a 1040, and so were left out of his calculations? Many construction, domestic and migrant workers never file. The Pew Hispanic Center says there are 12 million illegal aliens in the United States (who presumably do not file). But many American workers don’t file either.

And I’ve heard that 3 million are institutionalized (as inmates or patients). Whatever the number, aren’t most of them non-filers too? And many others don’t file because they’re homeless, perpetually unemployed, disabled, or for countless other reasons. These are people too, but excluded from the Internal Revenue Service statistics.

There’s also this technicality: What about babies, children and housewives (or house-husbands)? Millions of taxpaying families may have only one actual taxpayer in the family. I guess it depends on what issue we’re focused on. If you’re counting up the tax deadbeats, you don’t include spouses and babies. But if we’re looking for the percentage of our people who do all the actual taxpaying, then shouldn’t we include everyone?

Marcus reports that 108 million had taxable income. If the U.S. population is 310 million, then 65 percent pay no tax. But even excluding this spouses and children technicality, the numbers will be very different when considering non-filers.

I’m sure Marcus is right that liars distort tax statistics, but this time I wonder if the liars accidentally told the truth.


Ken Brett

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.