U.S. News


Does The Top 10 Percent Already Pay Their 'Fair Share' In Taxes?

Fox News host Maria Bartiromo claimed the top 10 percent of earners pay 80 percent of all taxes. But that's not quite right.
Posted at 10:32 AM, Feb 01, 2019

Ever since Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pitched her idea for a 70 percent marginal tax rate, people have been trying to poke holes in her argument.

"Let me just point out that according to the Tax Foundation, the top 10 percent of earners already pay almost 80 percent of all taxes, so you already have the highest earners paying their fair share, if you will," Fox News host Maria Bartiromo said. 

Is Fox News host Maria Bartiromo right? First, we should clarify that tax rates change pretty frequently, and we don't know what time frame she's referencing. So we'll look at a few different options to see if her statement holds up.

If you take Bartiromo's "all taxes" claim literally, then she's talking about individual income taxes, corporate taxes, employment taxes and more.

The Tax Foundation and our partners at PolitiFact analyzed the latest income distribution data from the Congressional Budget Office. It showed the top 10 percent of earners paid about 55 percent of total federal taxes in 2015. That's less than the nearly 80 percent the Fox News host referenced.

So what about looking just at individual income taxes? Data from the IRS shows that from 2001 to 2016, the top 10 percent of America's earners paid between 63 and 71 percent of the total individual income taxes. Those ratios also don't hit that 80 percent threshold. 

One thing we didn't examine was how state taxes would impact Bartiromo's claim, but states only take in a tiny fraction of what the IRS collects each year. So it doesn't look like the claim that the nation's highest earners pay almost 80 percent of all taxes has the federal data to back it up. We do know the country's highest earners pay a majority of the nation's taxes, but they also earn a majority of the money made in the U.S. 

This story is reported in partnership with PolitiFact and is part of an in-depth analysis show called "What The Fact" that airs Sunday mornings on Newsy.