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American taxpayers getting off easy

As the GOP presidential candidates rally around the battle cry of the need to cut Americans' taxes, there's fresh evidence of just how heavy that tax burden is. Compared to the rest of the developed world, though, U.S. taxpayers have it pretty easy. 

Of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only Chile and Mexico impose a lower tax burden than Uncle Sam, according to the latest report from the Paris-based grouping of advanced economies.

As politicians from Washington to Athens spar over how to balance federal budgets, the OECD found that the U.S. collects 24.1 cents in taxes for every dollar of gross domestic product.  Mexico's collects just 17.4 percent of its total economic output in taxes; Chile collects 18.4 percent. The average ratio inched up to 33.8 percent in 2009, the latest year available.

The latest data show that Denmark and Sweden continue to hold the top two spots as most heavily taxed.

Since 1995, the U.S. has also been cutting taxes faster than all but five of the 30 countries tracked by the OECD. As a percentage of GDP, U.S. tax revenues fell 3.7 percent from 1995 to 2009. About half of the OECD countries raised taxes during that period. Poland, Ireland, New Zealand, Israel and the Slovak Republic cut taxes more deeply than the U.S.

Overall, tax burdens as a percentage of GDP have stabilized, after falling since the recession of 2007 and the financial Panic of 2008 cut into government revenues. The average tax burden hit 35.2 percent in 2007; the record was set in 2000, when the average burden in the 30 countries surveyed was 35.3 percent of GDP.