September 18, 2012 / 4:34 PM / in 5 years

Factbox: Half of Americans pay no U.S. income tax? Well, sort of ..

(Reuters) - Mitt Romney’s assertion that almost half of Americans pay no federal income tax is backed by a 2011 study, but the way he cited the figure, as some other mostly Republican politicians have in recent months, can be misleading.

The Republican presidential challenger made the remarks in a video shot secretly at a fundraising event earlier this year. The video was posted online on Monday by a liberal magazine.

In the video, Romney accused supporters of Democratic President Barack Obama of paying no income tax. “These are people who pay no income tax,” he said. “Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.”

Here are some facts and estimates about who pays different types of taxes in the United States, how much they pay, and why.

INCOME, SALES, STATE, MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY TAXES

- About 46 percent of U.S. households paid no federal income tax in 2011, according to the Tax Policy Center, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C.

- However, almost two-thirds of those who paid no income tax did pay employment tax to support the Social Security pension program and the Medicare healthcare program, the center said.

Employment, or payroll, taxes are regularly withheld by employers from the paychecks of working Americans. Employment taxes hit the poor harder than others because they are a fixed percentage of individual income.

- Households that do not owe federal income tax are still subject to state sales taxes and property taxes.

WHO AND WHY INDIVIDUALS OWE NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX

- In most cases, it is elderly and poor households that do not pay federal income tax, according to the Tax Policy Center.

- About half of those who pay no federal income tax are allowed to do so because their incomes are too low.

- Others take advantage of specific tax breaks, including a large portion used by the elderly, but also the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Credit. Both of the low-income tax breaks have been expanded recently under Democratic and Republican administrations.

Reporting by Kim Dixon and Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by Eric Beech

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