Are Taxes Fair? Majority of Americans Now Say No

tax march
People march demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns, in New York, April 15, 2017. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

As people across the country scramble to file their taxes before Tuesday’s deadline, a majority will be doing so under the belief that the system they are adhering to is fundamentally unfair. More Americans than not now state that neither corporations nor wealthy individuals pay their fair share of taxes, a Pew Research Center survey released Friday found.

Related: With Marches, Progressives Enter the Tax Reform Debate

Sixty-two percent responded that it bothered them “a lot” that some corporations don’t pay their fair share, while a further 18 percent said it bothered them “some.” There was a similar split on the statement “some wealthy people don’t pay their fair share.” Sixty percent said this bothered them a lot, with 18 percent said this was something of a concern.

The results come as President Donald Trump is expected to begin a major push for tax reform, which the Tax Policy Center has said will benefit both corporations and the nation's highest earners. The Pew survey was conducted via telephone interviews of 1,501 adults nationwide between April 7 and April 11. The overall margin of error was 2.9 percentage points.


Predictably, there was a sharp, and growing, split based on party affiliation. While 75 percent of Democrats or those leaning Democratic said it bothered them a lot that some corporations don’t pay their fair share, just 44 percent of Republicans said the same.

The gulf was even greater when it came to the subject of wealthy people. Seventy-six percent of Democrats indicated that it bothered them a lot that rich individuals didn’t pay their fair share, with only 40 percent of Republicans sharing the same viewpoint.

Democrats’ growing displeasure with the tax code was the primary driver in a majority of Americans indicating that they viewed the system as unfair for the first time in 20 years. Since the last survey on the issue just over two years ago, the percentage of people stating that it was either not too fair or not at all fair climbed eight points to 56 percent.



As a whole, the country was fairly split on the fairness of the amount they as an individual paid in taxes, with 54 percent saying they were either bothered a lot or somewhat. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to view this as a major concern—35 percent versus 21 percent.

The complexity of the tax system was another significant concern. Forty-three percent responded that it bothered them a lot. In contrast, only 20 percent said the same about poor people not paying their full share.

Along with party affiliation, income was also a significant determiner of feelings about the tax system. Those with a family income of less than $30,000 per year were much more likely to indicate that it bothered them a lot that both wealthy people and corporations didn’t pay their fair share. Meanwhile, wealthier people were more likely to state that the complexity of the tax system was a major issue.

The poll was released just a day before thousands of Americans took to the streets Saturday in more than 150 cities across the country to demand that Trump release his tax returns. Trump is the first president since the 1970s not to make public his tax records and polls have continued to show that a majority of Americans believe he should do so.