Fox Still Pushing Falsehood That Half Of Americans Are “Not Paying Taxes”

Fox & Friends recently cited data from the conservative National Taxpayers Union to claim that half of Americans pay less than 3 percent of all taxes received by the government. In fact, while the bottom 50 percent of wage earners pay little federal income tax, they still pay payroll and sales taxes, and in many cases, state and local taxes as well.

Fox & Friends Suggests Half Of Americans Don't Pay Any Taxes

Kilmeade: “There's A Lot Of People Not Paying Taxes.” On the April 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed Rep. David Camp (R-MI) about GOP and Democratic budget proposals. During the interview, Kilmeade claimed that "[a] lot of people are not paying taxes" while referring to two graphics based on data from the National Taxpayers Union (NTU):

KILMEADE: I just want to go through some things. Before people raise taxes on the somewhat so-called fortunate people in this country, because that's how they were labeled over the weekend, let's take a look at this chart: 97.11 percent of the taxes comes from 50 percent of the wage earners. There's a lot of people not paying taxes. And also, about who pays taxes, only 2.7 percent of taxes come from the bottom 50 percent of wage earners. So of course they're not -- the burden's not going to be on them. It's going to be on the people that are paying most of it anyway. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/12/11]

During the segment, Fox & Friends aired the following graphics:



[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/12/11]

But While Nearly Half Of U.S. Households Pay No Federal Income Taxes, "[V]ast Majority" Pay Other Taxes

AP: "[V]ast Majority Of People Who Escape Federal Income Taxes Still Pay Other Taxes." In an April 7, 2010, article, The Associated Press cited a Tax Policy Center (TPC) statistic finding that “47 percent of tax units [owed] no income tax in 2009,” but went on to note: “The vast majority of people who escape federal income taxes still pay other taxes, including federal payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, and excise taxes on gasoline, aviation, alcohol and cigarettes. Many also pay state or local taxes on sales, income and property.” [Tax Policy Center, 6/29/09; The Associated Press, 4/7/10]

NTU Statistics Referred To Income Taxes, Not All Taxes. The data from NTU that Fox & Friends used refer to income taxes, not all taxes. NTU published these numbers for the tax years 1999-2008 on a page called “Who Pays Income Taxes and how much?” Data for each year show what percentage of “federal personal income tax” was paid by each income bracket. As Fox & Friends correctly indicated, the bottom 50 percent of wage earners paid 2.7 percent of federal income taxes paid in 2008. [National Taxpayers Union, accessed 4/12/11]

TPC: In 2006, Married Couples At Poverty Level Paid 7.7 Percent Of Wages In Payroll Taxes. According to the TPC, married couples at the poverty threshold paid an average 7.7 percent of their wages in payroll taxes in 2006. [Tax Policy Center, accessed 4/12/11]

Fox Has Relentlessly Propagated This Falsehood

Hannity Falsely Claimed “Half Of Americans ... Don't Pay Taxes.” On his August 30, 2010, Fox News show, Sean Hannity said, “If half of Americans now don't pay taxes, and the other half are the beneficiaries of the tax that the other half pay, at some point you say, OK, you got a full voting block and it seems like the Democratic Party ... caters to that.” Hannity has repeatedly claimed that 50 percent of Americans don't pay taxes. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/30/10, 4/15/10, 4/12/10, 4/9/10, 4/8/10]

Beck Falsely Claimed That “49 Percent” Of Americans “Don't Pay Any Tax.” On the April 16, 2010, edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck said: “How do we get people that are not paying taxes -- I mean, I saw this -- did you see this poll this week? There was like 48 percent say that they pay their right amount of taxes, and 49 percent don't pay any tax. So, I mean, you know, how do we get those people to understand, no, no, we gotta shut this system down and change it dramatically?” [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 4/16/10]

Carlson: “40 Percent Of The Country Does Not Pay Any Tax.” On the August 3, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson said, “Here's the other figure that makes me scratch my head a little bit -- the fact that 40 percent of the country does not pay any tax.” But as guest Pat Caddell pointed out, that number refers to income taxes. Caddell added: “Now, people do pay sales and local taxes. They pay Social Security.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/09]