We hear all the time that the “rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes” (you’ll find more than 100,000 Google search results for that phrase). Here’s an analysis using recent IRS data that suggests otherwise.
1. In 2009 (most recent year available), the top 400 taxpayers based on Adjusted Gross Income earned $81 billion as a group, and paid $16.1 billion in federal income taxes at an average tax rate of almost 20% (see chart above).
2. In 2009, the bottom 50% of taxpayers, a group totaling 69 million, earned collectively more than $1 trillion and paid $19.5 billion in federal income taxes at average tax rate of less than 2% (see chart above).
Bottom Line: A small group of 400 of America’s most successful earners in 2009, about the number of residents living in a typical apartment building in Washington, D.C., paid almost as much in federal income taxes as the entire bottom half of America’s 138 million tax filers, which is a population equivalent to the combined number of residents living in America’s 29 least populated states, plus the District of Columbia. What makes this disparity possible is the fact that an estimated 47% of individual income tax returns filed in 2009 had a zero or negative tax liability.
When you have only 400 Americans paying almost as much in federal income taxes as the entire bottom 50% of American filing income tax returns, I think we can dismiss any notion of the rich not paying their fair share of taxes. In fact, maybe the IRS should publish the names and addresses of the Top 400 (or provide a forwarding service to protect anonymity), so that we can all send them “Thank You” letters to express our gratitude for shouldering such a disproportionate share of our collective tax burden.