The headline: "The Richest 1 Percent of Americans Pay 24 Percent of Federal Taxes."
"The top 20 percent earned 51.9 percent of income and paid 69 percent of taxes," Curtis Dubay writes (under a large picture of Kim and Kanye, naturally). He continues: "One of President Obama's goals was to increase the tax burden on the rich. He succeeded in raising their already-substantial burden."
"Burden," of course, is subjective. The numbers in the headline don't convey a complex picture of varying rates and types of taxation including capital gains taxes, etc. It's not surprising that the top 1 percent pay an inordinate amount of overall taxes -- they also make an inordinate amount of the income.
The 1 percent-24 percent number is from 2011 (the most recent year for which data is available). On the graph below, the percentage of all federal taxes paid that was paid by each income group is in red.
In blue, you will note, are the before- and after-tax incomes of those same groups. The top 1 percent has substantially more income, pays substantially more in taxes, and has substantially more left over.
Bear in mind that the graph above combines multiple slices of the American public to compare to that 1 percent. The lowest 20 percent of income earners is a group that's 20 times as big as the top 1 percent, and so comparing that group's income and taxes to the 1 percent isn't apples-to-apples.
So here's the data above broken down by individual percentile. Since everyone in the 80-percent-and-lower slice of America is grouped into 20-percentile chunks, they appear even below (although they're not). Each percentile is bigger than the one that precedes it (with the highest percentile at the top left). But we only have data according to these groupings.
So, yes, the rich pay more in taxes -- and the expiration of tax breaks for the richest in 2013 will increase the amount of tax they pay (which, unlike most income groups, is heavily capital-gains taxes). But they pay more in taxes because they have more money.
From there, it's about what relative rate you think is appropriate, and whether and how much the rich should pay a higher percentage.
Let's assume that the concern is how we generate the amount of money that is currently raised from taxes. (That's probably not Heritage's concern, for what it's worth, but bear with us. This is illustrative.) How much money does that top 1 percent bring in? Here's the tax rate each group would be subject to in order for it to pay the same amount in actual tax dollars as the 1 percent does (a 29 percent rate). That's everyone in the group combined -- all 24 million or so households in the lowest 20 percent, and so on.
Now, the kicker. The below graph shows how the top 1 percent's income has grown compared to 1979, after being adjusted for inflation. This is percent growth, mind you, not just a raw number. So in 2011, the richest of the rich made twice what they did in 1978 -- after taxes. The lowest group made 40 percent more.
Even after paying higher tax rates, the wealthiest 1 percent is still seeing its income climb -- key context for that "24 percent" figure.