Gail Collins in today's NYT:

The Internal Revenue Service needs to get way better at marketing. Somehow the government tax collectors have let the country get locked into the idea that April 15 is a day of sorrow and misery, the culmination of the dreaded filing of the income tax form. But, in fact, most people who file get money back. (Cue the horns and balloons.) And according to one much, much-quoted study by the Tax Policy Center, 47 percent of American households didn’t have to pay one cent of income tax for 2009. (Marching bands, confetti.) Thanks to the tax credits in President Obama’s stimulus plan and other programs aimed at helping working families, couples with two kids making up to $50,000 were generally off the hook this year.

Naturally, anti-tax groups held rallies to thank the president for doing so much to reduce the burden on the half of the country least able to pay. Not.


About that 47 percent figure. Even the Tax Policy Center, which came up with it, doesn’t seem all that thrilled with the attention it’s getting. “That viral number,” sighed Bob Williams, a senior fellow at the center. He is worried that the country is getting the impression that the bottom 47 percent is not paying anything for government services. But there are, of course, a lot of other taxes, particularly the big whoppers that are taken out of paychecks to pay for Social Security and Medicare, the programs everybody seems to like.

“This is looking only at income tax,” Williams said. “If we toss in payroll tax, only 13 percent are exempt from both—almost all low-income elderly.”

Clearly, we need a THANKS, GOVERNMENT!!!! parade of low-income elderly.

Read the whole thing here.