There’s a Good Reason Why People Really Hate Paying Their Taxes

In a word: corporations

Mark Weiss/Corbis

If you heave a sigh when filing your taxes, you’re not alone—a new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that Americans aren’t exactly enthusiastic about the tax system. While that's not so surprising, Americans’ top complaint about taxes might be: more people are bothered that some corporations and wealthy people don’t pay their fair share than by the amount of taxes they themselves have to pay.

When asked what bothers them about the tax system, 64 percent of people surveyed were bothered “a lot” by feeling that corporations aren't pulling their weight. Sixty-one percent had the same concern about the feeling that some wealthy people don’t pay enough. In contrast, only 27 percent had the same concerns about the amount of taxes they themselves pay, and even fewer (20 percent) were bothered “a lot” by the feeling that some poor people don’t pay their fair share.

Overall, Pew found that attitudes about some aspects of the tax system have remained largely unchanged—about half of Americans (53 percent) feel they pay “about the right amount” in taxes, while 40 percent feel they pay more than their fair share. But when you break down tax attitudes by party, they have shifted substantially. In 2011, 37 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Democrats felt they paid more than their fair share of taxes. Today, that number has risen to 50 percent for Republicans and fallen to 30 percent of Democrats.

When it came to perceptions of tax fairness, the results varied substantially by race. Fifty-three percent of whites surveyed felt the present tax system is unfair, compared to 35 percent of Hispanics and 38 percent of blacks.

A majority of Americans do agree on one thing: 59 percent feel America should “completely change” its tax system. But perhaps tax satisfaction is merely a matter of perspective—this infographic from Forbes shows that on average, Americans pay almost half the income tax of countries like Belgium, which taxes an average of 42.8 percent of a single worker’s earnings.

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