Reality check

Who are the “47 percent”?

Mitt Romney's comment that 47 percent of voters pay no income tax seems to come from a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The statement is often misinterpreted to mean that nearly half of U.S. taxpayers don't pay any federal taxes at all. This graphic takes apart this claim.

Out of the tens of millions of households that filed federal tax returns to the IRS in 2011 . . .

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. . . 76 million households did not pay any federal income tax.

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That accounted for nearly half of all tax returns.

(With his 47 percent comment, Romney seems to be referring to an earlier study from the Tax Policy Center.)

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However, many of those filers DID pay payroll taxes . . .

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. . . leaving 18 percent of Americans who didn't pay any income OR payroll tax. Most were low-income workers or elderly living on Social Security.

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If you remove the elderly on Social Security, the 8 percent left were mostly very poor people who don't have jobs.

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In the end, only 1 percent of non-working households making more than $20,000 paid NO federal taxes.

SOURCE: Tax Policy Center. GRAPHIC: Karen Yourish and Laura Stanton - The Washington Post. Published Sept. 23, 2011. Updated Sept. 18, 2012.