Discussion Topic: Who Pays Taxes in America?

Teaching Tip: This discussion can be developed based upon an out of class assignment (your students prepare to answer the discussion questions before class), or if you have access to the internet in class and can project the NPR Planet Money Blog, “What America Pays in Taxes” on a screen so that the entire class can see the graphs, it works very well as an in class presentation and discussion.

In the near future there’s a good chance that your personal tax rates will change quite a bit – and exactly what happens depends upon who wins the elections in the fall. We all need to pay close attention to this topic because as we know from Principle 4: Taxes Affect Personal Finance Decisions. Planet Money recently took a look at “What America Pays in Taxes” – looking at how much of the different types of taxes (income versus payroll versus estate versus corporate) are paid along with what the average federal rate is for people with different income levels and how much they actually pay on average.

Because taxes have become a hot political topic, there have been a number of articles recently pointing out who really pays what – because until you understand that, you can’t really form an opinion on how taxes should be changed. Some of these recent articles include:

Taxes—Who Really Is Paying Up

Why the Rich Pay 40% of Taxes

Why Some Tax Units Pay No Income Tax

Why do half of all Americans pay no federal income taxes?

Discussion questions:

1. What is your opinion on tax reform? Should taxes be raised on the highest income earners? Why is it so hard for Congress to agree on tax reform. Be prepared to discuss your opinion with the class.

2. Write a one page paper on what changes you would recommend in terms of taxes.  Be prepared to discuss this in class.

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