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U.S. Tax Rates: The Big Picture

It’s Tax Day! The deadline for U.S. taxpayers to file their returns is April 15, and the Internal Revenue Service publishes plenty of statistics on how much income people across the country are declaring. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the most recent numbers are from 2011; the figures are dated because the IRS statistics office needs to analyze about half a million of the 200 million tax returns filed each year.

There is, however, historical data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that shows taxes as a percentage of gross domestic product (total economic output) since 1965. The OECD defines individual taxes as “personal income taxes, including those deducted by employers (pay-as-you-earn taxes), and surtaxes” while corporate taxes include “corporate income taxes, corporate profits taxes, corporate surtaxes, etc”.


Where does the U.S. rank among other wealthy countries in the OECD database? This is how individual taxes stacked up in 2011:


On individual taxes as a percentage of GDP, U.S. rates are consistent with the OECD average. But when it comes to corporations, the overall U.S. tax rate (2.3 percent) falls below the median (2.7 percent) and the average (3 percent):


Mona Chalabi is data editor at the Guardian US, and a columnist at New York Magazine. She was previously a lead news writer for FiveThirtyEight.


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