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America’s love/hate (but mostly hate) relationship with taxes, in 7 charts

It's tax day! (Ok, the exclamation point may be a little much.)

As you might guess, Americans have a lot of feelings about paying taxes-- mostly negative. Here's seven charts that tell the story of our long and fraught relationship with the tax man.

1. Most dislike or hate doing their taxes

One in 20 Americans love doing their taxes, and at least one-third enjoy the experience generally. But a 56 percent majority in a 2013 Pew Research Center poll said they dislike or hate the task.

Pew Research Center poll, April 4-7, 2013.
Pew Research Center poll, April 4-7, 2013.

2. They're easy, at least for most people

The tax code is complicated, but 58 percent in an Associated Press-GfK poll last month said completing a federal tax return is easy. Just 20 percent said they were "very easy," but half as many called them "very hard." 

3. Here's what people hate about taxes. (And what the like.)

The 2013 Pew Research Center asked poll respondents why they liked or disliked taxes; they got a mouthful.

 4. Most say  tax money goes to waste

 5. Taxes bring out our political disagreements on "fairness"

Everyone wants a "fair" tax code, but partisans disagree on how fair taxes are today. Independents and Democrats believe taxes are too low on upper-income folks while a majority of Republicans think they pay too much or a "fair share," according to an April Gallup poll.  The poll makes clear why politicians love reducing "middle class" taxes; most Americans think they are part of the middle class, and fewer than one in 10 think the middle class doesn't pay enough to the IRS.

gallup taxes


6. There are hardcore procrastinators among us.

A Marist-McClatchy poll this month  found 24 percent of people wait until the last minute (or day, at least) to file their taxes. (The Fix = guilty.) That number spikes to 40 percent among those who do not expect to get a tax refund this year, compared with just 15 percent of those who do. Procrastination seems much more appetizing without a refund's financial incentive.

7. Democrats and Republicans are trusted equally on the issue

This may come as a surprise, but it's nothing new. When asked in a March Washington Post-ABC News poll which party they trust more to handle taxes, Americans split almost evenly between Democrats (42 percent) and Republicans (41 percent). Republicans have built their party brand on arguing for lower taxes (a good selling point), but Democrats have also found favorable ground arguing for higher taxes on the wealthy.

March 2014 Washington Post-ABC News poll

Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report.

Scott Clement is a survey research analyst for The Washington Post. Scott specializes in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.



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