Every year, a growing number of Americans are sending in their tax returns with a hefty side of resentment. According to a new poll, the share of Americans who think the amount they pay in income taxes is unfair is at a 12-year high.
Polling firm Gallup reported Monday that 55 percent of Americans believe their income taxes are fair (in a poll with a 4 percentage point margin of error). That is the lowest the figure has been since 2001. That year, only 51 percent of Americans said their income taxes were fair. Still, Americans grew considerably more content in 2003, after George W. Bush and Congress cut rates for most taxpayers. That year, 64 percent of Americans said their taxes were fair, but the figure has slid over the course of the last decade.
"It is possible that this tax increase affected how Americans perceive their own federal income taxes, even though very few Americans on a percentage basis would likely have seen an increase," writes Gallup poll analyst Jeffrey Jones in a commentary accompanying the poll. Still, American workers are paying more in taxes this year with the January 1 end of the payroll tax cut, as Jones notes. That increase may affect how Americans see the other taxes they pay to the government.
As measured by Gallup, income level barely mattered in how respondents viewed of the fairness of their taxes. Fifty-four percent of people with incomes of $75,000 or greater said their taxes were fair, as did 57 percent of people with incomes below $75,000. Of course, the views might differ if the sliver of families with annual incomes above $450,000 were separated out. The fiscal cliff deal reached at the beginning of this year raised tax rates on those Americans, as well as individual filers making more than $400,000 per year.
Pay grade may not have affected respondents' feelings, but political leanings certainly made a difference. Only 49 percent of Republicans said their taxes are fair, along with only 51 percent of independents. Meanwhile, 66 percent of Democrats said their taxes were fair.
And while it may go without saying, very few taxpayers think they're unfairly shortchanging the government. Half of Americans say their taxes are too high, while only 2 percent say they're too low. Still, that leaves a hefty share—45 percent—who say their tax rates are "about right." Still, this is a big change from Americans' time of greatest discontent. In 1969, 69 percent of respondents said their taxes were too high, while only 25 percent said they were around the right level.