The tax reform bill that just became law late last year set new tax rates for American taxpayers. Nearly every bracket got a shift lower, with most brackets seeing drops of 1 to 4 percentage points.

Some critics of the new tax law argue that the wealthiest Americans got the lion's share of the tax reduction. With a new rate of 37%, the top tax bracket did shrink from the 39.6% rate from 2017. Yet as you can see below, a 37% top individual tax rate isn't the lowest that the rich have seen historically, with lower rates prevailing throughout a considerable part of the past 30 years.

Graph showing tax individual income tax rates over history.

Data source: IRS, Tax Foundation. Chart by author.

Nevertheless, the wealthy have it good compared to the tax rates that existed during much of the middle part of the 20th century. With World War II-inspired taxes that created brackets taxing more than 90% of income, the rich have successfully fought for an easier tax burden over the generations. Tax brackets are only part of the story, as how much the rich pay in tax also depends on what deductions and other tax breaks they're allowed to take.

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