In 2018, billionaires paid a smaller portion of their income in taxes than average Americans. That’s the first time that has happened in history.
Billionaires paid 23% of their income in federal, state, and local taxes in 2018, according to an analysis of tax data by the University of California at Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman for their upcoming book “The Triumph of Injustice.” The average American, meanwhile, paid 28%.
“The US tax system is a giant flat tax — except at the top, where it’s regressive,” Saez and Zucman wrote in “The Triumph of Injustice.” “As a group, and although their individual situations are not all the same, the Trumps, the Zuckerbergs, and the Buffetts of this world pay lower taxes than the teachers and secretaries.”
Payroll taxes and regressive sales taxes increase poorer Americans’ overall tax burden, according to Saez and Zucman, while capital taxes that target investments typically held by the ultrawealthy have been scaled back since 1980. Between 1950 and 1980, billionaires paid more than 50% in taxes, Saez and Zucman found.