After OWS introduced the damaging (to right-wing interests) framing of the 99% vs the 1%, many on the right tried to retort by complaining about the "47%"--those folks whose net income (adjusted gross income minus deductions and credits) is zero or negative and thus pay no federal income tax. This group was larger than in recent years, due both to the recession and some of the countermeasures taken by the government. According to the narrative promoted by Erick Erickson and his ilk, the "47%" (mainly poor people) are deadbeats who pay no taxes at all.
Which was, of course, false; most of these people do pay taxes, directly or indirectly; even if their federal income tax bill is zero. Those who earn wages still have to pay payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare. Some may have to pay state or local income and payroll taxes. Most Americans have to pay a general sales tax (only a few states lack this) and/or excise taxes on specific goods, such as gasoline. Homeowners in many states pay property taxes, and renters help pay that indirectly (a landlord's property taxes is one thing that affects rents). And numerous fees, tolls, and other charges are routinely levied by government agencies for specific services.
And unlike the federal income tax, most of these other taxes are regressive. No matter how little you make, you probably have to pay these. Unless you are homeless and destitute, and don't participate in the economy at all, you are a taxpayer.
But the funny thing is--these taxes, which ensnare the poor--also ensnare the filthy rich who find themselves avoid to avoid federal income tax (legally or otherwise) by various schemes.
Like the presumptive GOP nominee.
The political world has been abuzz over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's claim that a Bain employee told him that "Romney's paid no taxes for the past ten years". Mitt Romney has flat-out denied this, though refused to release his tax returns.
Mittens, however, has revealed a skill at parsing language and saying things that are technically true while being misleading as hell, that even manages to put Bill Clinton to shame. Consider carefully Mitt's own words:
“I have paid taxes every year, and a lot of taxes. So Harry is simply wrong.”Notice that Mitt claims to have paid taxes; but didn't say whether or not he has paid any federal income tax.
We know that Mitt has real estate all over the country. He almost assuredly pays property tax on that--likely a princely sum. The property tax on a multi-million dollar mansion is probably more than most of us earn in a year. While it is possible to park income-producing investments in overseas tax havens, it isn't possible to move stateside real estate to the Cayman Islands--this is a tax that Romney simply cannot avoid.
He also lives in the state of Massachusetts, at least part of the time (and retroactively between 1999 and 2002), which has a 6.25% sales tax. His "car elevator" mansion is in the swanky town of La Jolla, CA, which has a base sales tax rate of 7.25%. That car elevator? 7.25% of the price of that goes to Sacramento. He can't avoid state sales tax by buying the car elevator in Oregon and hauling it down I-5; that sort of tax avoidance scheme works for groceries but not for big-ticket items.
In short, it should be manifest that as long as Mitt Romney is living in the US, he's paying taxes to various US taxing authorities, most of which cannot be sheltered by clever accounting.
The question that needs to be asked then, to pin this slippery eel down:
Are there any years in which you have not paid any federal income tax?
And if the answer to that is "yes" (don't hold your breath for any answer to come), then the obvious follow-up is: why is it OK for Romney to pay nothing to Uncle Sam, while working-class poor whose gross income is lower than the statutory deductions permitted to all taxpayers, are treated with scorn?