How much does the top income tax rate affect how much money the government collects each year?
That question is relevant today because of the President's latest idea: the "Buffet Rule", which would impose higher income taxes on people who earn over one million dollars a year.
But would the government actually collect more money? Let's find out by doing some math that the President doesn't seem to have done!
The chart below plots the ratio of total government Revenue Per Household (RPH) to the Median Household Income (MHI) for the U.S. for each year from 1967 through 2010. The chart also plots the maximum income tax rate that the topmost income earners in the United States have had to pay for each year from 1967 through 2010.
The nice thing about the government RPH to MHI ratio is that if the high income earners who are affected by changes in the maximum income tax rate, we'll see it in how the percentage of revenue collected the government per household changes with respect to the median household income changes over time.
Here, if a tax cut really slashes the amount of money that the government collects from these taxpayers, we'll see it show up as a decrease in this ratio following the timing of when a tax cut is implemented. We will likewise see the reverse pattern following a tax hike.
What we do see indicates that the maximum tax rate has little to no bearing on how much money the federal government collects per household in any given year. Since 1967, the government's RPH to MHI ratio has risen steadily on average, indicating that the U.S. government is collecting more and more money per household over time, with the changing level of the topmost income tax rate having little to no effect on the rate of that change.
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