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Mark Thoma sends us to Chuck Marr and Brian Highsmith http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3505: "The 51 percent figure is an anomaly that reflects the unique circumstances of 2009.... In a more typical year, 35 percent to 40 percent of households owe no federal income tax.... The 51 percent figure... ignores the substantial amounts of other federal taxes... households pay.... [O]nly about 14 percent of households paid neither federal income tax nor payroll tax in 2009.... Most of the people who pay neither federal income tax nor payroll taxes are low-income people who are elderly, unable to work due to a serious disability, or students, most of whom subsequently become taxpayers..."

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