04/18/2012 09:10 am ET

Most Americans Say Tax Code Unfair To Poor, Middle Class: Survey

As Americans scramble to send in their taxes, some are deriding the tax code's priorities.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans say they think the current tax code is unfair and benefits the rich, according to a CNN poll released on Tuesday: tax day. While Americans might think the tax code is generally unfair about half said they think they pay the right amount in taxes.

The findings come as Americans' focus on the tax system is sharpening -- and not just because taxes are due. The Buffett rule, President Obama's proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, failed in the Senate on Monday after Senate Republicans blocked the vote through filibuster.

The CNN poll findings mirror others indicating that Americans are fed up with the tax code. More than 50 percent of respondents said in Pew Research poll in December that they think the tax system is unfair, and 57 percent of them said they are most bothered by feeling that the wealthy don't pay their fair share.

The government spends $1.3 trillion per year by offering certain types of tax breaks, according to the Tax Policy Center. Politicians like to spend through the tax code because it is stealthier and easier to lock in, according to Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, economics professors at the University of Pennsylvania.

One tax break for the wealthy that's lately garnered attention is the lower tax rate on investment income. That's because Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney paid a 13.9 percent tax rate in 2010 -- far lower than that of most middle-class Americans -- in part because he earned most of his income from investments.

Another tax break that benefits the wealthy more than others is the mortgage deduction. Homeowners that earn more than $250,000 per year save an average of $5,459 in taxes by claiming the mortgage deduction: 10 times more than average homeowners that earn $40,000 to $75,000 per year, according to economists at the University of Pennsylvania. Renters save nothing.

President George W. Bush's tax cuts have also shifted more of the tax burden from the rich to middle-class families, according to the Congressional Budget Office.