Tax Breaks

Where You Rank as a Taxpayer

Do the rich pay their fair share of taxes? How about you? Our handy tool will help you answer these questions.

You'll be hearing a lot about tax inequality during the 2020 presidential campaign season. All the Democrats seeking their party's nomination are talking about taxing the rich more heavily. There's no shortage of proposals to impose "wealth taxes," raise the top income tax rate, increase estate taxes, and eliminate tax breaks for the wealthy. On the other side, President Trump will point to those parts of the 2017 tax reform law that help many middle- and lower-income taxpayers, such as supersizing the standard deduction, doubling the child tax credit, and lowering rates across the board. Before casting your ballot, you'll have to decide for yourself if our tax system is "fair" and whether some groups should pay more (or less) in taxes.

Then there's your own situation. No matter how "rich" or "poor" or "middle class" you are, are you bearing your "fair share" of the nation's tax burden? Do you have the faintest idea what portion you pay ... beyond a gnawing feeling that it's too darn much?

To help answer your questions about tax equality, we created a tool to show how the nation's taxable income and the country's federal income tax bill are distributed among its citizens. Our tool uses the latest IRS data to shine a bright light into what are too often murky shadows.

We'll also show you how your own income stacks up against that of your fellow Americans.

Are you ready to see where you fit in? With our simple calculator, enter a single number from your tax return, and you'll instantly know the answer.

A look at the big picture

The latest numbers from the IRS—based on data from 2017 tax returns—show what it takes to be among the top 1% of income earners: At least $515,371 of adjusted gross income. That's $34,567 more than it took to buy into this rarified status a year earlier. The 1.4 million returns reporting this elite income status accounted for 21% of the total adjusted gross income reported on 2017 returns.

That's right. One percent of taxpayers reported about one-fifth of all income. And that same tiny group kicked in more than 38% of all the federal income taxes paid.

How much do you need to make to be in the top 50% of earners? Just $41,740.

Fall below that level, and you are in the bottom half, along with about 71 million of your fellow taxpayers. All told, that group earned just 11.3% of the AGI reported on 2017 federal returns. And they paid about 3% of all the income taxes paid.

Use our calculator to see if you're in the top 1%, 5%, 10%, 25% or 50% . . . or the bottom 50% of income earners.

Our income and tax-burden breakdowns come from information reported on 2017 individual income tax returns. Income categories are based on adjusted gross income, which is basically income from taxable sources minus certain deductions—including deductible contributions to IRAs, alimony paid and student loan interest—but before subtracting the value of exemptions (before the 2018 tax year) and either the standard or itemized deduction.

Income Category2017 AGIPercent of All IncomePercent of Income Taxes Paid
Top 1%Over $515,37121.0%38.5%
Top 5%Over $208,05336.5%59.1%
Top 10%Over $145,13547.7%70.1%
Top 25%Over $83,68269.1%86.1%
Top 50%Over $41,74088.8%96.9%
Bottom 50%Below $41,74011.3%3.1%

Source: Internal Revenue Service data

(Note that these figures include only federal income taxes. According to Treasury Department estimates, most wage earners will pay more in payroll taxes—Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes—than they do in income taxes.)

Most Popular

Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer
Coronavirus and Your Money

Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer

The IRS has an online tool that lets you track the status of your second stimulus check.
January 18, 2021
Biden Calls for $1,400 Payments as Part of $1.9 Trillion Relief Package
Coronavirus and Your Money

Biden Calls for $1,400 Payments as Part of $1.9 Trillion Relief Package

Under Biden's plan for a third stimulus check, the $600 second-round stimulus checks would be increased to $2,000.
January 14, 2021
When Could We Get a Third Stimulus Check?
Coronavirus and Your Money

When Could We Get a Third Stimulus Check?

President-elect Joe Biden and others in Congress are pushing for a third-round of stimulus checks, but it might be a while before we get them.
January 18, 2021

Recommended

The Recovery Rebate Credit: Get Your Full Stimulus Check Payment With This Tax Credit
Tax Breaks

The Recovery Rebate Credit: Get Your Full Stimulus Check Payment With This Tax Credit

If you didn't get a stimulus check, or you didn't get the full amount, you may be able to claim the recovery rebate credit on your 2020 tax return.
January 18, 2021
When Can You File Your Taxes This Year?
tax filing

When Can You File Your Taxes This Year?

If you're an early bird when it comes to filing your tax return, you'll have to wait a little longer this year before the IRS will accept your return.
January 15, 2021
20 Most-Overlooked Tax Breaks and Deductions
Tax Breaks

20 Most-Overlooked Tax Breaks and Deductions

Don't miss these frequently overlooked tax deductions, credits and exemptions. Otherwise, you're just pouring money down the drain.
January 14, 2021
Charitable Tax Deductions: An Additional Reward for the Gift of Giving
Tax Breaks

Charitable Tax Deductions: An Additional Reward for the Gift of Giving

Because of the worldwide pandemic and related restrictions, your donations to charity are needed more than ever this year. And, with charitable tax de…
January 9, 2021