What Is Progressive Taxation?


Progressive taxation is the form of taxation adopted by the United States that taxes its citizens based on their incomes. It is a controversial system that taxes the wealthy at a higher rate, because the higher a person’s income, the higher the tax rate.

Tax Brackets

Tax brackets start at 10 percent for the lowest income and increase incrementally to 35 percent for the wealthiest.


Taxable income includes wages, interest and profits earned in a year.


There is some confusion about how progressive taxes work. While a higher income is taxed at a higher rate, it is only that portion of income that is higher that is taxed higher. In other words, for a salary of $50,000, the first $20,000 is taxed at 10 percent, the next $10,000 is taxed at 15 percent and so on.


Those who oppose the progressive tax believe that it punishes success because the more you make, the more you pay. Those in favor subscribe to the idea that the wealthiest should pay more in taxes because they can afford it. However, without a progressive taxation system, the wealthiest would still pay more in taxes because they have more taxable incomes.


Alternatives include the regressive tax, which is where taxes get lower as the income increases, and the FairTax and Flat tax, which would tax everyone at the same rate. Those who make more would still ultimately pay more because they have more income to tax.

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