off the charts
POLICY INSIGHT
BEYOND THE NUMBERS

Meet Some Makers

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Senior Director of Federal Tax Policy

As my colleague Jared Bernstein notes, the idea that this nation is divided into “takers” (that is, non-taxpayers) and “makers” is just plain wrong.  For example, as the graph shows, the largest category of people who didn’t owe federal income tax last year is working-class people who go to work each day to support their families and who contribute much to our society.
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Who is in this group?  Here are just a few examples, based on our analysis of Census data:
  • 4.5 million work in retail stores.
  • 3.5 million work in the restaurant and food service industry.
  • 2.7 million help care for patients in hospitals and doctors’ offices and assist elderly people in nursing homes.
  • 2.1 million are construction workers.
  • 2.1 million work in factories and other manufacturing jobs.
  • 2.0 million clean and maintain offices and other buildings.
These people have low-paying jobs so they don’t pay federal income taxes, but they do pay payroll taxes, as well as state and local taxes.  And, keep in mind that this is only a one-year snapshot.  Many have paid federal income taxes in the past or will pay in the future. Their work provides real benefits to our society.  Think about how you rely on them on a typical day during which you grab a quick breakfast, walk into your clean office, and stop at the store after work — or on an atypical day, when you visit a relative in the hospital or watch your new house being built.  They deserve respect, not scorn.  They’re makers.