US Tax Rates in Three Graphs. Not Boring. Really.

Tax policy is numbingly boring, of course, but in his latest JPM note Michael Cembalest sneaks up on the subject with the following three graphs. While they don’t settle the issue of marginal tax rates, they do provide a useful context for why we can’t agree on whether US marginal tax rates are too high, too low, or something else altogether. [-]

Graph 1: Historical top marginal tax rates

Top tax rates

Graph 1a: Top marginal rates, by president — The more partisan version of the above


Graph 2: Effective top marginal tax rates

Top eff rates

Graph 3: Income for top tax bracket



  1. Ha! was just reading Cembalest's newsletter when this popped in my Twitter…
    related: does anyone know what country is abbreviated CHI on the last page chart? It's not China, and assume not Taiwan (TAI)… It's bugging me…

  2. Graph #3 is very neat. Too bad it doesn't go back farther.

  3. Rocky Agrawal says:

    Did we have a flat tax 88-90? (chart 3)

  4. I think Raymond will be interested in this.

  5. Great charts. I wonder how much of the difference in chart two (top statutory rate and effective rate) is due to the 15% tax on carried interest.

  6. Donald T. Beldock says:

    Ever since Alice Rivlin left, CBO credibility ain't what it used to be. You know the old saw, "Figures don't lie, but…" The statutory rates are unarguably straightforward. The "effective " rates are where the games are played and about as reliable as Gingrich economics.