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The Nation

April 14, 2011

Poll: Are your taxes fair? Most say yes

WASHINGTON — For all the complaining this time of year, most Americans actually think the taxes they pay are fair.

Not that they're cheering. Fewer people expect refunds this year than in previous years, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. But as Monday's filing deadline approaches, the poll shows that 54 percent believe their tax bills are either somewhat fair or very fair, compared with 46 percent who say they are unfair.

Should taxes be raised to eat into huge federal deficits? Among the public, 62 percent say they favor cutting government services to sop up the red ink. Just 29 percent say raise taxes.

That's sure to be a major issue as Congress takes up budget legislation for next year and the 2012 presidential campaign gets under way in earnest. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama revived his proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help reduce government borrowing.

In the poll, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to think their tax bills were fair. Liberals and moderates were more likely to think so than conservatives. Women more likely than men. Most whites thought their tax bills were fair; most non-whites didn't.

The young and the old — adults under 30 and seniors 65 and above — were much more likely to say their taxes were fair than those in their prime earning years. Surprisingly, there was little difference in the perception of fairness across income levels.

But just because people say they pay a fair amount doesn't mean that they think others do.

Sandra Jennings, a retired teacher in South Bend, Ind., said her federal taxes are fair, but she thinks rich people get off too easily.

Rich people, she said in an interview, "get all these loopholes. The middle class does not have loopholes."

Mari Lemelson of Edison, N.J., said, "I have a big problem with the millionaires, at least what I understand to be the millionaires' tax breaks."

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