This low-income Mississippi county is a favorite IRS target — and residents pay more than Trump in taxes
When the late New York City real estate magnate Leona Helmsley infamously said "only the little people pay taxes," she spoke the truth — and a bombshell New York Times report recently showed how little President Donald Trump has paid in federal income taxes compared to Americans who make considerably less than him. Some of the United States' poorest Americans live in Mississippi, and journalist Sara Sneath — in an article published in The Guardian on October 18 — takes a look at lower-income Mississippi residents who are more likely to be audited by tax authorities than millionaires and billionaires.
Sneath notes that according to ProPublica, the Internal Revenue Service audited Humphreys County, Mississippi at a higher rate than any other county in the United States.
"About 12 out of 1000 tax returns are audited each year in the county, according to the ProPublica analysis," Sneath notes. "That's 53% higher than the national average and raises the question of why such a place is the subject of such IRS attention, rather than the haunts of millionaires and billionaires, like Manhattan and its one-time resident Donald Trump."
Joe Jackson, mayor of the town of Belzoni in Humphreys County, told The Guardian, "Most people around here are kind of adjusted to the idea that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That's not surprising to people in our area."
Sneath observes that although Humphreys County's economy was in "shambles" even before the coronavirus pandemic, its residents "have been targeted by the IRS for claiming a tax credit that aims to lift working parents out of poverty." The tax credit that Sneath is referring to is the Earning Income Tax Credit.
"The IRS audits about 300,000 taxpayers who claim the Earning Income Tax Credit, or EITC, each year," Sneath explains. "These taxpayers are targeted more often than high-income and high-wealth taxpayers because the audits of EITC claimants are easier to do, according to a 2019 letter written by the IRS commissioner. An analysis by Kim Bloomquist, who retired from the IRS Office of Research in 2018, found that the IRS' policy has resulted in higher rates of tax audits in poor communities of color than the rest of the country. Eight of the most heavily audited counties in the country are in Mississippi. In Humphreys County, 76% of the 8000 residents are Black."
Joyce McNair, who chairs the Humphreys County Democratic Party, has been audited by the IRS and told The Guardian that most years, she pays $3000-4000 back to the federal government in taxes — and that $3000-4000 is much more than the $750 in federal income taxes that Trump, according to the New York Times, paid in 2016.
McNair complained, "I have an issue with someone who is making more than quadruple my income paying less in taxes. The average American is paying more."