The New York Times Reporters Do Not Understand How Marginal Tax Rates Work

For whatever reason, an article titled “Investors Rush to Beat Threat of Higher Taxes” was published by The New York Times despite the fact that it contains a galling bit of stupidity, which could spread like a supervirus to the general public.

It is these three paragraphs in particular:

Kristina Collins, a chiropractor in McLean, Va., said she and her husband planned to closely monitor the business income from their joint practice to avoid crossing the income threshold for higher taxes outlined by President Obama on earnings above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.Ms. Collins said she felt torn by being near the cutoff line and disappointed that federal tax policy was providing a disincentive to keep expanding a business she founded in 1998.

“If we’re really close and it’s near the end-year, maybe we’ll just close down for a while and go on vacation,” she said.

This is a stupidity as persistent as it is avoidable. Ms. Collins, chiropractor from Virginia, is among the many people of affluence who have somehow survived without understanding how marginal tax rates work. As always, I am obligated to provide the following paragraph from Dean Baker’s post, “Marginal Tax Rates: How To Explain Them To A Five-Year-Old Child” (not it’s actual title, but still):

The tax system brackets give marginal rates. This means that if the raise bumps you into a higher bracket then you pay more taxes only on the income in the higher bracket. Suppose that the tax bracket for income under $200k is 25 percent, and for income over $200k is 33 percent. If you get a raise that pushes your income from $195,000 to $205,000 then you only pay the higher 33 percent tax rate on the $5,000 that is above the $200k threshold not your whole income. Therefore, there is no (as in none, nada, not any) way that getting more money, and being pushed into a higher tax bracket will leave you with less money after taxes.

Read all by Jason Linkins at HuffPo

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