Much has been made recently concerning Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47 percent (the actual number in 2011 was 46.4%) of Americans who paid no federal income tax in 2011. The comments, and the 47 percent, have been the subject of countless political talk shows, blog posts and news articles. One of the most misleading articles, from Daniel Bukszpan of CNBC, claims to list “the 10 states with the highest number of people who pay no federal income tax,” further claiming that “[e]ight of the states are considered red, one is leaning toward President Barack Obama and one is a swing state.” These states are:
Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina, New Mexico, Idaho, Texas and Utah
The problem with Mr. Bukszpan’s assertion is that, although the ten states listed above had the highest percentage of nonpayers in 2010 (the year for which data on nonpayers by state was available from the Tax Foundation), they by no means had the highest number of nonpayers. In fact, if nonpayers are tallied by “red state” and “blue state” (the image below was captured from electoral-vote.com on 26 September, 2012), an entirely different picture emerges.
The solid blues and reds indicate “Strongly Democratic” and “Strongly Republican,” respectively, and only the nonpayers in those states (and the District of Columbia) were tallied. This resulted in a total of 19,869,325 nonpayers from 15 states and the District of Columbia for the blue team and 12,107,110 nonpayers from 17 states for the red team.
Whatever you think of the 47 percent, it is clear that more nonpayers live in blue states.
For information on the fiscal costs of nonpayers, visit the Tax Foundation.