Column: Let's put Donald Trump's $750 annual tax payment in perspective

By Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

The headline nugget in the expose of Donald Trump's taxes published Sunday by the New York Times is that Trump paid $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017.

In many other years, he paid nothing, the Times reported. But let's put those $750 payments in context, so we can have a sense of the scale of his reported ripoff of all other American taxpayers.

First, a reminder: Trump has bragged about not paying taxes. When Hillary Clinton accused him during a 2016 Presidential debate of stiffing the government on his tax obligations, he responded, "That makes me smart."

He also accused Barack Obama of avoiding his civic obligations by paying taxes amounting to "only" 20.5% of his $790,000 salary in 2012 - vastly more than Trump has reportedly paid.

Now let's take a look at Trump's tax record.

$750 was about what the average American household owed in federal income taxes per month.


In 2017, median income for American households was $63,761, according to the Census Bureau. (The median is the level at which half of all households earned less and half earned more.) The federal income tax bite for families with that income was about $8,600 for couples filing jointly, and $11,670 for singles.

That works out to $716 for couples and $972.50 for singles per month. In other words, you probably owed more federal income tax for a month than Trump paid for the entire year in 2016 and 2017.

People who earned only $60,000 paid more in Social Security and Medicare taxes per month than Trump paid in income tax per year.

Payroll taxes, which fund Social Security and Medicare, are the largest bite taken out of most income earners' paychecks. They come to 15.3% of earned income; that's split 50-50 between employees and employers, though economists tend to consider both halves to be tantamount to a burden on the employees.


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