- Days left

Most Americans Say the Rich Don't Pay Enough Taxes

Most Americans say the rich don't pay enough taxesBy HOPE YEN

(AP) - As the income gap between rich and poor widens, a majority of Americans say the growing divide is bad for the country and believe that wealthy people are paying too little in taxes, according to a new survey.

The poll released Monday by the Pew Research Center points to a particular challenge for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose party's policies are viewed by a wide majority as favoring the rich over the middle class and poor.

The poll found that many Americans believe rich people to be intelligent and hardworking but also greedy and less honest than the average American. Nearly six in 10, or 58 percent, say the rich don't pay enough in taxes, while 26 percent believe the rich pay their fair share and 8 percent say they pay too much.

Even among those who describe themselves as "upper class" or "upper middle class," more than half - or 52 percent - said upper-income Americans don't pay enough in taxes; only 10 percent said they paid too much. This upper tier was more likely to say they are more financially secure now than 10 years ago - 62 percent, compared to 44 percent for those who identified themselves as middle class and 29 percent for the lower class. They are less likely to report problems in paying rent or mortgage, losing a job, paying for medical care or other bills and cutting back on household expenses.

The findings come at the start of this week's Republican National Convention and as both Romney and President Barack Obama seek to appeal to a broad swath of financially struggling voters who identify as middle class. Romney supports an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for everyone including the wealthiest 2 percent, and says his policies will benefit the middle class by boosting the economy and creating jobs.
"The fact that Romney may be viewed as wealthy doesn't necessarily pose problems for his candidacy," said Kim Parker, associate director of Pew Social & Demographic Trends, noting that people see the wealthy as having both positive and negative attributes. "The challenge for Romney lies more in the fact that large majorities say if he is elected president, his policies would likely benefit the wealthy."

The results reinforce a tide of recent economic data showing a widening economic divide. America's middle class has been shrinking in the stagnant economy and poverty is now approaching 1960s highs, while wealth concentrates at the top. A separate Pew survey earlier this year found that tensions between the rich and poor were increasing and at their most intense level in nearly a quarter-century.

In fact, well-off people do shoulder a big share of the tax burden. Though households earning over $1 million annually comprise just 0.3 percent of all taxpayers, they pay 20 percent of all federal taxes the government is projected to collect this year, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan group that studies tax policy. The figures included income, payroll and estate taxes. In contrast, households earning $50,000 to $75,000 a year accounted for 12 percent of taxpayers and contributed 9 percent of federal taxes, the center's data showed. Some 46 percent of households pay no federal income tax at all, although they do pay payroll, excise and other taxes.

According to the latest findings, about 63 percent of Americans say the GOP favors the rich over the middle class and poor, and 71 percent say Romney's election would be good for wealthy people. A smaller share, 20 percent, says the same about the Democratic Party. More Americans - 60 percent - say if Obama is re-elected his policies will benefit the poor, while half say they'll help the middle class and 37 percent say they'll boost the wealthy.

"The Great Recession was not an equal opportunity disemployer," said Sheldon Danziger, a public policy professor at the University of Michigan who describes the gap between rich and poor as the widest in decades. "College graduates, whites and middle-aged workers had fewer and shorter layoffs than high school graduates, blacks, Hispanics and younger workers. And, only a small percentage of the rich work in the hardest-hit industries, like construction and manufacturing."

About 65 percent of Americans say the gap between rich and poor has gotten wider in the past decade, while 20 percent believe it has stayed the same and 7 percent say the gap has gotten smaller. Separately, 57 percent say a widening income gap is a bad thing for society; just 3 percent say it is a good thing.

Asked to estimate how much a family of four would need to earn to be considered wealthy in their area, the median amount given by survey respondents was $150,000. For middle class, the median amount was $70,000.

Many Americans see rich people as more likely to be intelligent (43 percent) and hardworking (42 percent) than average Americans. But the rich are also seen as more likely to be greedy (55 percent). Thirty-four percent of those surveyed say the rich are less likely to be honest than the average person; just 12 percent say the rich are more likely to be honest.

The Pew survey involved telephone interviews with 2,508 adults conducted from July 16 to 26. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

___

AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and reporter Alan Fram contributed to this report.

___

Online:

Pew Research Center: http://pewsocialtrends.org/

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How Financial Planners go Grocery Shopping

Learn to shop smart and save.

View Course »

Intro to different retirement accounts

What does it mean to have a 401(k)? IRA?

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

What is IRS Form 8824: Like-Kind Exchange

Ordinarily, when you sell something for more than what you paid to get it, you have a capital gain; when you sell it for less than what you paid, you have a capital loss. Both can affect your taxes. But if you immediately buy a similar property to replace the one you sold, the tax code calls that a "like-kind exchange," and it lets you delay some or all of the tax effects. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses Form 8824 for like-kind exchanges.

What are ABLE Accounts? Tax Benefits Explained

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts allow the families of disabled young people to set aside money for their care in a way that earns special tax benefits. ABLE accounts work much like the so-called 529 accounts that families can use to save money for education; in fact, an ABLE account is really a special kind of 529.

What is IRS Form 8829: Expenses for Business Use of Your Home

One of the many benefits of working at home is that you can deduct legitimate expenses from your taxes. The downside is that since home office tax deductions are so easily abused, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tends to scrutinize them more closely than other parts of your tax return. However, if you are able to substantiate your home office deductions, you shouldn't be afraid to claim them. IRS Form 8829 helps you determine what you can and cannot claim.

What is IRS Form 8859: Carryforward of D.C. First-Time Homebuyer Credit

Form 8859 is a tax form that will never be used by the majority of taxpayers. However, if you live in the District of Columbia (D.C.), it could be the key to saving thousands of dollars on your taxes. While many first-time home purchasers in D.C. are entitled to a federal tax credit, Form 8859 calculates the amount of carry-forward credit you can use in future years, not the amount of your initial tax credit.

What is IRS Form 8379: Injured Spouse Allocation

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has the power to seize income tax refunds when a taxpayer owes certain debts, such as unpaid taxes or overdue child support. Sometimes, a married couple's joint tax refund will be seized because of a debt for which only one spouse is responsible. When that happens, the other spouse is said to be "injured" and can file Form 8379 to get at least some of the refund.