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Numbers Matter

  • Broadcast in Politics



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According to IRS in 2012, it conducted just shy of 1.5 million audits out of 144 million individual income tax returns.The probability of being audited is highest for high-income taxpayers — about 12 percent of individuals who made more than $1 million and 33% people who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit were audited in 2012.
But the principle is important: a handful of anecdotal data points are not worth very much in a country of more than 300 million people. Ms. Noonan, and many other commentators, made a similar mistake last year in their analysis of the presidential election, when they cited evidence like the number of Mitt Romney yard signs in certain neighborhoods as an indication that he was likely to win, while dismissing polls that collectively surveyed hundreds of thousands of voters in swing states and largely showed Mr. Obama ahead.Nate Silver