Romney Says He'll Make Top 5% Pay 60% of Income Taxes—More Than Under Reagan, Bush I, Clinton or Carter

October 17, 2012 - 3:08 PM

Mitt Romney

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during presidential debate at Hofstra University on Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - In Tuesday night’s presidential debate at Hofstra University, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he was going to make sure the top 5 percent of earners in the United States pay 60 percent of all federal income taxes.

That is a higher share of total federal income tax revenues than they paid at any time under Ronald Reagan--or George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or during the last year of Jimmy Carter's presidency.

As of 2009, the top 5 percent of earners included anyone who earned an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $154,643 or higher.

“Now, how about deductions?” Romney said. “Because I'm going to bring rates down across the board for everybody, but I'm going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits, particularly for people at the high end, because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they're paying now.

“The top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects,” said Romney. “So that'll stay the same. Middle-income people are going to get a tax break.”

Later Romney said, “You heard what I said about my tax plan. The top 5 percent will continue to pay 60 percent, as they do today. I'm not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people.”

According to a report published by the non-partisan Tax Foundation, that is a higher share of federal income taxes than the top 5 percent of earners paid at any time from 1980 through 2005.

The Tax Foundation study, published in Oct 2011, looked at federal income tax data from 1980 through 2009. In 2009, the last year in the study, the top 5 percent of earners were those who had an adjusted gross income of $154,643 or higher.

In 1980, when Jimmy Carter was president, the top 5 percent had an AGI of $43,792 or

higher, and 36.84 percent of all federal income taxes.

During the Reagan presidency, the share of federal taxes paid by the top 5 percent hit a peak of 45.62 percent in 1988. That year, a person needed to have an AGI of $72,735 or higher to be in the top 5 percent.

During the George H.W. Bush presidency, the share of federal taxes paid by the top 5 percent peaked at 45.88 percent in 1992. That year, a person needed to have an AGI of $85,103 or higher to be in the top 5 percent.

During the Bill Clinton presidency, the share of federal taxes paid by the top 5 percent peaked at 56.47% in 2000. That year, a person needed to have an AGI of $128,336 to be in the top 5 percent.

During the presidency of George W. Bush, the share of federal income taxes paid by the top 5 percent first exceeded 60 percent during the period studied by the Tax Foundation.

In 2006, the top 5 percent paid 60.14 percent; and, in 2007, they paid 60.61 percent. In 2006, a person needed and AGI of $153,542 to be in the top 5 percent. In 2007, person needed an AGI of $160,041.

In 2008 and 2009, the percentage of income taxes paid by the top 5 percent declined, dropping to 58.72 percent and then 58.66 percent.

Thus to make sure Americans in the top 5 percent paid the full 60 percent they were paid for two years under George W. Bush, Romney would need to increase the share of taxes paid on the top 5 percent to a higher level than they paid in the first year under Obama.

The AGI needed to qualify for the top 5 percent also declined in George W. Bush’s last year and Barack Obama’s first year, dropping to $159,619 in 2008 and $154,643 in 2009.