The incomes of the top 400 American households soared to a new record high in dollars and as a share of all income in 2007, while the income tax rates they paid fell to a record low, newly disclosed tax data show.
In 2007 the top 400 taxpayers had an average income of $344.8 million, up 31 percent from their average $263.3 million income in 2006, according to figures in a report that the IRS posted to its Web site without announcement that were discovered February 16. (For the report, see Tax Analysts Doc 2010-3372 .)
The figures came at the peak of the last economic cycle and show that widely published reports in major newspapers asserting that the richest Americans are losing relative ground and “becoming poorer” are not supported by the official income data.
The long-term data show that under current tax and economic rules, the incomes of the top earners rise when the economy expands and contract during recessions, only to rise again. Their effective income tax rate fell to 16.62 percent, down more than half a percentage point from 17.17 percent in 2006, the new data show. That rate is lower than the typical effective income tax rate paid by Americans with incomes in the low six figures, which is what each taxpayer in the top group earned in the first three hours of 2007.
Taxpayers on the 95th to 99th steps on the income ladder paid an effective income tax rate of 17.52 percent, according to calculations by the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit research group that favors less taxation and lower rates. Taxpayers in this category earned between $255,000 and $451,000 in 2007, compared with an average daily income of almost $945,000 for the top 400, who paid lower effective tax rates on average.
Payroll taxes did not add a significant burden to the top 400, not changing the rounding of rates by even one decimal. With payroll taxes taken into account, the effective tax rate of the top 400 would be 17.2 percent in 2006 and 16.6 percent in 2007, my analysis shows — the same as not counting payroll taxes. As a point of comparison, about two-thirds of Americans pay more in Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes than in federal income taxes. …
Since 1992, the bottom 90 percent of Americans have seen their incomes rise by 13 percent in 2009 dollars, compared with an increase of 399 percent for the top 400.
The annual top 400 report was first made public by the Clinton administration, but the George W. Bush administration shut down access to the report. Its release was resumed a year ago when President Obama took office. The Statistics of Income Division at the IRS created the top 400 reports at the urging of Joel Slemrod, a business professor at the University of Michigan.
The top 400 reports understate actual top incomes because of deferral rules. For example, managers of offshore hedge funds who deferred their gains may not be counted in the top 400 reports, which are based on the figure on the last line of the front page of Form 1040.
At least three hedge fund managers made $3 billion in 2007. It is not known how much, if any, of their income they deferred.
But remember, kids, if we’re going to avoid economic DEE-zaster, we must cut the hell out of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; we cannot raise taxes on the wealthy for that would be commiesociofascistictude.
Also, to avoid economic DEE-zaster, we must continue to tax income derived from work about twice as heavily as we tax income derived from wealth, or the commiesociofascistictudenoids will eat us in our beds or something, and if this means that you and I continue to subsidize the lifestyles of the banksters, well, is this a great country or what?