Report: Richest 1 Percent Pay Less Than Their Share

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Photo by: M. Fader, P. Gabel, A. Talwar, K.A. Cote, J. Murphy, N. de Mause, O. Morrison, G. Flynn

The City Council on Wednesday published their response to the mayor's preliminary budget. It called for a thousand more police officers, an end to school-lunch fees, new efforts to reduce homelessness and a move to improve the city's property tax system, which right now is “rife with inequalities.”

Indeed, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, the property tax might make New York City's overall tax system regressive. As we reported last week, the city's income tax is progressive: The richest pay a slightly higher share of their income than the less affluent. But the income tax is just one of the city's many taxes, and according to FPI, when you lump in the sales tax and property tax, the share of the city's tax revenue coming from the top 1 percent is smaller than their share of total income (see chart below).

“The sales tax is highly regressive,” FPI's James Parrott said in a briefing Wednesday. The property tax is distorted by a maze of carve-outs and quirks but is also generally regressive.

The result, according to FPI's analysis, is that people making between roughly $9,000 and $20,000 take home 4 percent of the city's income but pay 5.5 percent of its taxes. Those who make more than $567,000 get 37 percent of the income but pay only 28 percent of the taxes.

The city's mix of fees and taxes is even more complicated than this chart below indicates. There are taxes on businesses that the FPI numbers—which focus on individual payers—can't encompass. And there are things like water rates that, through antiquated fiscal alchemy, end up funding the city's general expenses.

That said, adding property and sales taxes to the mix add to the evidence that the city's tax system is not some aggressively confiscatory weapon of class warfare.

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