With busy season and a presidential election almost here, WalletHub’s release of a new survey about tax fairness is interesting timing.
The consumer finance website drew its findings from an August online survey of 1,040 Americans.
Here are the eight topics that respondents addressed in the 2016 Tax Fairness Survey.
1. Tax code complexity. The majority (more than 75 percent) of respondents rated the tax code as complex or very complex. Fewer than 5 percent indicated it was simple or very simple. Age factored into the rankings, too, with perceived complexity rising with age.
2. Tax rates by income group. Respondents were shown four charts of how taxes could be applied according to income group (poor, middle class, rich) and could choose from among a flat income tax and three types of graduated tax. A little more than a quarter (26 percent) of respondents favored the flat tax. More men (30 percent) preferred a flat tax than women (23 percent).
Of the three graduated tax charts, most respondents favored the one in which the poor would pay a lower tax, compared to the other two charts showing no taxes for the poor.
3. Deductions and tax fairness. When respondents were asked if the fairest tax code would have more, less, or the same number of deductions, the majority (nearly 50 percent) said it would have less, while 27 percent said more and 25 percent said the same.
4. Investment and wage income. The majority (57 percent) of respondents said tax rates should be the same for wages and investment income, while 33 percent said investment income should be taxed at a higher rate. About 10 percent chose higher taxes for wages.
5. Tax rates for consumers and corporations. Most (57 percent) respondents said corporate tax rates should be higher, while 36 percent said consumers and corporations should face equal tax rates. Only 6 percent thought consumers should be taxed more. The majority of women (65 percent) said it’s fairest to have corporations taxed at a higher rate, while 49 percent of men felt the same way.
6. Most fair and least fair taxes. Taxes on alcohol won about 66 percent of respondents’ votes as most fair, followed closely by taxes on tobacco (64 percent). Americans view taxes on wages (38 percent) and corporations (39 percent) as least fair.
7. Taxes vs. the economy. What’s most important – tax equality, tax fairness, or whatever is best for the economy? Less than a quarter (23 percent) of respondents chose the economy, and even fewer (21 percent) chose tax equality. The majority (57 percent) chose tax fairness.
8. Trump vs. Clinton. Respondents showed the same preferences whether the candidate’s name was disclosed or not in two questions about taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
Names were disclosed to respondents when they were asked which candidate’s plan for corporate taxes they favored, and the majority (71 percent) chose Hillary Clinton’s plan over Donald Trump’s plan (29 percent).
About the same number of respondents (72.5 percent) chose Clinton’s plan for taxes on the wealthy when they were not told candidates’ names. Trump’s plan drew 27.5 percent of respondents’ favor.
Terry Sheridan is an award-winning journalist who has covered real estate, mortgage finance, health care, insurance, personal finance, and accounting and taxation issues for newspapers, magazines, and websites. A Chicago native and former South Florida resident, she now lives in New England.