I read somewhere that the U.S. has the lowest taxes of all industrial countries.
In the U.S., you have 2, sometimes 3 types of taxes that we pay. The first, which EVERYONE MUST pay, is the federal tax. This is the same in all 50 states, and depends on how much you earn. I'm just looking at an old payslip from college (1996), in which I earned $1000 monthly, with $80 (8%) going to the feds. I believe the highest percentage you can possibly pay is something like 30%, and only if you make over $200,000 yearly/$16,666 monthly. This was the case a few years ago, so I think it should be roughly the same nowadays.
After federal taxes, you pay state taxes. Now, not every state in the union taxes its citizens, eg., Florida, North Dakato and Alaska do not collect income taxes. As a matter of fact, Alaska PAYS you to live in their state with a yearly stipend derived from oil revenues, or so I've heard. My home state of NY does collect income taxes, and the most I've ever paid was about 3 or 4%. State income taxes tend to be much lower than federal income taxes.
After state taxes, then comes your city taxes, which thankfully only few cities collect. Of course, my home city of NYC collects city taxes, but it's also very low. But let's not forget value added taxes, which in NYC is a whopping 8.25%, I believe that's the highest in the U.S.! Most cities pay a more modest 3 to 5%.
All in all, for Americans, the taxes you pay greatly depends on where you live. We all pay federal taxes, but only some of us pay state and city taxes. I believe residents of NYC altogether pay the highest taxes in the union, but I'd love to hear from other Americans about their experiences.
We also have very numerous deductions that can lower your tax bill. Giving to charity is one way to lower your bill, which is why Americans and American companies go to great lengths to make sure they give generous amounts to charities each year. Compared to EU countries, we certainly pay a lot less and deduct a lot more. I spent a lot of time in Sweden, and you guys are right, the Swedish government seems to do everything in their power to prevent citizens from amassing any type of small fortune. Here in Vienna, many of my friends have no concept of the word deductions.