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Mitt Romney comments raise questions about who pays income taxes

In Oklahoma, 36 percent of households filing federal returns owed no income taxes for 2010, and large majority of those had incomes of less than $25,000
by Chris Casteel Published: September 19, 2012

— About 36 percent of Oklahoma households that filed 2010 federal tax returns owed no income taxes, ranking the state 17th in the nation in terms of “non-payers,” according to the IRS and the Washington-based Tax Foundation.

The large majority of those who owed no income taxes had adjusted gross incomes of less than $25,000, though even some Oklahomans with incomes greater than $1 million also paid no income tax, IRS figures show.

The number of people who pay no federal income tax in the United States has been the subject of some debate in Washington, particularly among Republicans who say an overhaul of the tax code should broaden the base of taxpayers.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's comments in a video leaked this week quickly amplified the issue beyond Washington, raising questions about why many people don't pay income taxes.

In comments to donors at a private fundraiser in Florida in May, Romney said 47 percent of the people in the United States pay no income taxes and that President Barack Obama starts out with 47 percent of the people who will vote for him “no matter what.”

“All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it,” Romney said in the video.

According to a study last year by the Washington-based Tax Policy Center, an estimated 46 percent of U.S. households had no income tax obligation in 2011, primarily because they don't have enough taxable income after the standard exemptions and deductions are applied.

However, even those wage earners who don't pay federal income tax pay Medicare and Social Security taxes.

In Oklahoma, 1,590,384 households filed federal income tax returns for the 2010 tax year; of those, 570,209 owed no taxes for that year. According to IRS figures, nearly 455,000 of those households had adjusted gross incomes of less than $25,000 and nearly 556,000 had incomes below $50,000.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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