The Tax Foundation recently released its annual report on the number of tax returns filed that have no tax liability, and the study shows a record number of “nonpayers” in 2008. Taxpayers become “non-payers” when credits and deductions wipe out any income tax they owe.
According to the Tax Foundation report, of the more than 142 million returns filed in 2008, almost 52 million have no tax liability. That means more than 36 percent of tax filers paid no income taxes in 2008 – a new record high. This was a steep increase over 2007 when fewer than 33 percent of filers paid no taxes. As the table below shows, the growth of non-payers is a long-term trend that has been accelerating in recent years. For instance, 21 percent of taxpayers were non-payers in 1990.
The amount of income that a family can earn and still be non-payers is also alarming. In 2010, a family of four can earn up to $51,000 and still pay no income taxes.
Not only do a record number of taxpayer’s pay no taxes, but many of them actually receive cash payments through the tax code because of refundable credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit. According to the Tax Foundation, cash payments from these two credits alone totaled over $70 billion.