Black American Taxes: Comparing What We Pay

How much do Black American households pay in Federal income taxes?

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How much do Black American households pay in Federal income taxes? How do those tax payments compare with payments by the rest of the nation? What could a Black American nation do with the income taxes that we pay?

These are important questions to ask today as we confront a US Government that is increasingly unable to meet fully Black America’s requirements. Also, the questions are germane as the idea (prospect) of Black Liberty in the form of nation formation is forming in Black Americans’ consciousness.

To answer these questions, we collected 2019 data from the primary source of US tax information: The US Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Statistics of Income (SOI) Division. While SOI tax data are available by income size, they are not available by race.[1] Therefore, we prepared a rough estimate of Black income taxes using ratios of Black Household Income to total US Household income from the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey (CPS) for 2019.[2]

Comparing Table 1 (below) with the just- mentioned source data will reveal that we collapsed certain income size categories to force consistency between SOI and the CPS statistics. Panels A and B of Table 1 indicate that we associated CPS Total Household Income with SOI Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), which are similar, but not perfectly matched, concepts. Notably, the difference between CPS Total Household Income and SOI Total AGI is only about USD 400 billion. Similarly, the difference between CPS Total Black Household Income and our rough estimate of SOI Total Black AGI is only about USD 50 billion.


We apply income size category ratios for CPS Black Household Income-to-CPS Total Household income in Panel A to the SOITotal AGI in Panel B to obtain SOI Black AGI. The Black-to-Total ratios for the detailed income sizes are equivalent in both panels, but the computed ratios for CPS Total Black Household Income-to-CPS Total Household Income and SOI Total Black AGI-to-SOI Total AGI are slightly different; 9.01% versus 9.71%, respectively.

Panel C of Table 1 reflects the application of the Black-to-Total CPS income ratios by household income size categories from Panel A to the SOI Total Income Tax in Panel C.3 Again, while the detailed income tax by size ratios in Panel C are identical to the ratios in Panel A, the computed total ratio of Black-to- Total SOI Income Tax in Panel C is lower than the ratio of Black-to-CPS Total Household Income in Panel A; 7.49% versus 9.01%, respectively.

The important takeaways from Table 1 are that:

(1) Black income is concentrated in the higher income size categories (Panels A and B);

(2) Black income taxes are concentrated in the higher income size categories (Panel C); and

(3) Black America’s shares of total income and taxes are well below our share of the US population (about 13% for 2019).

Even so, with a population of 42.8 million and an estimated USD 118,418 million in income taxes, Black Americans stand heads and shoulders above two selected nations (Uganda and Ukraine) that are similar in population size (see Table 2 below).

Table 2 shows that available tax statistics for Uganda and Ukraine include income taxes paid by households and corporations. Uganda collected USD 1.5 billion, and Ukraine collected USD 15.2 billion in income taxes in 2019. In comparison, Black American households alone paid USD 118.4 billion in income taxes—i.e., excluding income taxes paid by Black-owned corporations.

Given the hurdles that Black America faces in achieving income and wealth equality in the US, Black Americans should be cognizant of our contributions to the nation in the form of income taxes. Most importantly, we should comprehend that—in a US context—we produce goods and services, earn income, and pay income taxes for Federal government operations on par with nations that far exceed our population size.

A salient question to ask is: How can we replicate and expand our current levels of production and earnings as a separate nation that would permit us to enjoy Black Liberty?

By Brooks Robinson\


[1] SOI data are from “Table 1.1 All Returns: Selected Income and Tax Items, by Size and Accumulated Sizes of Adjusted Gross Income, Tax Year 2019 (Filing Year 2020)” in Individual Income Tax Returns: Complete Report 2019; (Ret. 041122). SOI data for 2019 are the most recently available. We exclude consideration of SOI negative income from our analysis because CPS data for households only recognize positive income. We employ CPS household income data in the analysis because the majority of SOI income (USD 7.6 trillion) for 2019 is reported on joint returns filed by married persons and surviving spouses in households.

[2]CPS data are from Table HINC_02_1_1 (All Races) and Table HINC_02_1_6 (Black Alone) “Age of Householder-Households, by Total Money Income, type of Household, Race and Hispanic Origin of Householder;” series/demo/income-poverty/cps-hinc/hinc- 02.2019.html (Ret. 041122).

[3] The stated method used to estimate SOI Black Income Tax is equivalent to applying the ratio of SOI Total Taxes in Panel C-to-SOI Total AGI in Panel B by AGI size to estimated SOI Black AGI in Panel B.

[4] Readers are urged to consider Table 2 information in light of the fact that for 2019, while Black America’s spending power (a proxy for gross domestic product (GDP)) exceeded USD 1.0 trillion, GDP for Uganda and Ukraine was estimated by the International Monetary Fund at just USD 38.0 billion and USD 154.0 billion, respectively. database/2021/October (Ret. 041422).

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