An unprecedented gush of income-tax revenue is flowing into the federal government, driven in part by investors and business owners, and the size and speed of the increase has surprised even the nation’s fiscal-policy experts.
Individual income tax collections are poised to reach $2.6 trillion, or 10.6% of the economy in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That is up from 9.1% in 2021 and would mark a record in the 109-year history of the tax, topping the war-tax receipts of 1944 and the dot-com boom of 2000.
The surge has been particularly notable in taxes outside paycheck withholding, a signal that capital gains and business income are driving the trend. The Penn Wharton Budget Model estimates collections of non-withheld taxes reached an inflation-adjusted $522 billion in April 2022, compared with just over $300 billion in 2018 and 2019, before the pandemic.
The labor force participation rate—the proportion of the population working or seeking work—for Americans age 55 and older has fallen from 40.3% in February of 2020 to 38.3% this February—representing a loss of 1.45 million people from the labor force.
The participation rate initially fell much more for prime-age workers, those between ages 25 and 54, from 82.9% in February last year to 79.8% in April, but has since jumped 1.3 points, to 81.1% in February of this year. By contrast, participation for older workers has shown no rebound from last spring.
Lydia Boussour, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said the unique health risk to older people during the pandemic has likely deterred them from rejoining the workforce in greater numbers. Public-health officials have warned that the risk of severe illness from Covid-19 increases with age. Among those who contract the virus, the death rate for those age 50-64 is nearly nine times that of those age 30-39, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.