This is a common claim used to rile up conservatives, the implication being that if you pay any taxes at all half of the country is somehow freeloading off of you. The statistic is true…ish.
The reality is that 47% of households in 2009 didn’t pay federal income tax. That sounds big, but lets break it down.
First of all, many of them still paid federal payroll taxes for social security, state and local taxes and all of them pay sales tax, so they’re not exempt from taxes so much as paying marginally less because of low income, unemployment, disability or retirement.
24.3%, (or 1/4th) of americans are under the age of 18.
12.8% are over 65, many retired or on retirement benefits which obviously are tax exempt.
In early 2008, when the economy was doing fairly well 13.2% of americans were below the poverty level.
In 2009 roughly 30% of the lowest earners were unemployed or under-employed (working part-time or not earning enough to make ends meet).
Add that up and it’s pretty impressive that 53% managed to make enough to even pay federal taxes.
My source for most of these stats btw was the US census.