What is Tax Law?
In law schools, "tax law" is a subdiscipline and area of specialist study. Tax law specialists are often employed in consultative roles, and may also be involved in litigation. Many law schools require about 50 credit hours of study with another 30 hours of electives. Law students pick and choose available courses on which to focus before graduation with the J.D. degree in the United States. This freedom allows law students to take many tax courses such as federal taxation, estate and gift tax, and estates and successions before completing the Juris Doctor and taking the bar exam in a particular U.S. state.
At first the income tax was incrementally expanded by the Congress of the United States, and then inflation automatically raised most persons into tax brackets formerly reserved for the wealthy until income tax brackets were adjusted for inflation. Income tax now applies to almost ⅔ of the population. The lowest earning workers ($20,000 in 2000) pay no income taxes as a group and actually get a small subsidy from the federal government because of child credits and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The federal government is now financed primarily by personal and corporate income taxes. While it was originally funded via tariffs upon imported goods, tariffs now represent only a minor portion of federal revenues. There are also non-tax fees to recompense agencies for services or to fill specific trust funds such as the fee placed upon airline tickets for airport expansion and air traffic control. Often the receipts intended to be placed in "trust" funds are used for other purposes, with the government posting an IOU ('I owe you') in the form of a federal bond or other accounting instrument, then spending the money on unrelated current expenditures.
The federal government collects several specific taxes in addition to the general income tax. Social Security and Medicare are large social support programs which are funded by taxes on personal earned income. Estate taxes are levied on inheritance. Net long-term capital gains as well as certain types of qualified dividend income are taxed preferentially.
Think the rich don't pay taxes... Well in the United States, the Treasury Department reported based on IRS data the share of all federal taxes paid by taxpayers of various income levels. The data shows the progressive structure of the U.S. federal tax system that reduces the tax incidence of people with smaller incomes, as they shift the incidence disproportionately to those with higher incomes.
- The top 0.1% of taxpayers by income pay 17.4% of all federal taxes (earning 9.1% of the income).
- The top 1% of taxpayers by income pay 36.9% of all federal taxes (earning 19% of the income).
- The top 5% of taxpayers pay 57.1% of all federal taxes (earning 33.4% of the income).
- The bottom 50% pay 3.3% of all individual income taxes (earning 13.4% of the income).