The hidden history of race and the tax code : Planet Money This past January, researchers uncovered that Black taxpayers are three to five times as likely to be audited as everyone else. One likely reason for this is that the IRS disproportionately audits lower-income earners who claim a tax benefit called the earned income tax credit. And this, says law professor Dorothy Brown, is just one example of the many ways that race is woven through our tax system, its history, and its enforcement.

Dorothy discovered the hidden relationship between race and the tax system sort of by accident, when she was helping her parents with their tax return. The amount they paid seemed too high. Eventually, her curiosity about that observation spawned a whole area of study.

This episode is a collaboration with NPR's Code Switch podcast. Host Gene Demby spoke to Dorothy Brown about how race and taxes play out in marriage, housing, and student debt.

This episode was produced by James Sneed, with help from Olivia Chilkoti. It was edited by Dalia Mortada and Courtney Stein, and engineered by James Willets & Brian Jarboe.

Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in
Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.

The hidden history of race and the tax code

The hidden history of race and the tax code

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It may not seem like it at first, but race is also a part of our taxes and who gets audited. LA Johnson/Getty/design by NPR hide caption

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LA Johnson/Getty/design by NPR

It may not seem like it at first, but race is also a part of our taxes and who gets audited.

LA Johnson/Getty/design by NPR

This past January, researchers uncovered that Black taxpayers are three to five times as likely to be audited as everyone else. One likely reason for this is that the IRS disproportionately audits lower-income earners who claim a tax benefit called the earned income tax credit. And this, says law professor Dorothy Brown, is just one example of the many ways that race is woven through our tax system, its history, and its enforcement.

Dorothy discovered the hidden relationship between race and the tax system sort of by accident, when she was helping her parents with their tax return. The amount they paid seemed too high. Eventually, her curiosity about that observation spawned a whole area of study.

This episode is a collaboration with NPR's Code Switch podcast. Host Gene Demby spoke to Dorothy Brown about how race and taxes play out in marriage, housing, and student debt.

This episode was produced by James Sneed, with help from Olivia Chilkoti. It was edited by Dalia Mortada and Courtney Stein, and engineered by James Willets & Brian Jarboe.

Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.

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Music: "Cooling Down," "Lost in Yesterday," "Slowmotio," "Cool Down," "Cool Blue," and "Tinted."

Clarification April 19, 2023

A previous version of this episode wrongly implied the extent of what we know about how the IRS chooses whom to audit. According to the IRS, the agency audits about 1% of returns that claim the earned income tax credit.