In tax year 2014, according to a report published by the Internal Revenue Service, the federal government hauled in a then-record $1,377,797,136,000 in individual income taxes.
Nonetheless, of the 148,606,578 individual income tax return filers that year, 52,062,499 (or 35 percent) filed what the IRS calls “nontaxable returns,” which means they paid no net individual income taxes.
Among these 52,062,499 filers who did not pay income taxes in 2014, according to Table 3.3 in the report, were 31,129,405 filers who also received $90,276,007,000 in payments from the federal government for “refundable” tax credits.
“In total, taxpayers claimed $105.6 billion in refundable tax credits,” said the IRS report. “Of this, $5.5 billion was applied against income taxes and $9.8 billion against all other taxes. The remaining $90.3 billion in refundable tax credits was refunded to taxpayers.”
“Tax credits are used to offset taxes,” the report explains. “Certain tax credits are also refundable in that if the credit exceeds the total tax owed, the excess can be refunded to the taxpayer.”