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Briefing

Who are the '47 percent'?

The leaked video in which GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney talks about the difficulties of winning over people he says are "dependent" on Washington has become a major talking point in an election cycle that's largely about the size and role of the federal government. Here's a look at some of the issues it has raised.

- Staff writer

First, is it true that nearly half of US households don't pay income tax?

"Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax," Mitt Romney said at that Florida fundraiser last spring. "So our message of low taxes doesn't connect."

Mr. Romney's right about the non-income-taxed slice of Americans. It's an issue that conservatives as a whole have been talking about for some time. About 46 percent of US households owed no income tax in 2011, according to an estimate from the Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center. In 2008 and 2009 – the epicenter of the Great Recession – that figure was even higher, at 51 percent. That last figure hints at one aspect of this number – it's been boosted quite a bit by recent hard economic times. In 2007, the figure was 40 percent, which is closer to its recent historic level.


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