- They are more likely to live in Republican states. The states with the highest percentage of non-filers, with the exception of Florida and New Mexico, are solidly red. Ezra Klein calculates that Mr. Romney will receive “96 electoral votes from the ‘taker’ states” while Mr. Obama will receive 5. (29 are tossups.)
- More than one-fifth are elderly. David Frum says they’re “people who pay no income taxes because their income takes the form of Social Security.”
- Most of them pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than Mr. Romney. Here’s Ezra Klein again: “Among the American who paid no federal income taxes in 2011, 61 percent paid payroll taxes—which means they have jobs and, when you account for both sides of the payroll tax, they paid 15.3 percent of their income in taxes, which is higher than the 13.9 percent that Romney paid.”
- Some of them are simply too poor to pay federal taxes. In 2011, 18.1 percent of households paid neither income tax nor payroll taxes. Within that group, more than half are elderly; over one-third are nonelderly with annual income under $20,000.
- Some of them are wealthy, and manage to slip into Mr. Romney’s dependent-victim category due to exemptions and deductions. As ABC noted in June, “20,752 households that reported earning more than $200,000 in 2009 paid no federal income taxes. About 1,500 of those tax-free Americans were millionaires.”
Update: see Jamelle Bouie's July 2014 Slate article for a history on the use of the "47 percent" meme among conservative politicians and pundits.