- Nationally, average effective income tax rates were at their lowest levels since the IRS began tracking them in 1986. The average tax rate for returns with a positive liability went from 12.24% in 2008 to 11.06% in 2009.Logan's report is particularly timely, in the midst of ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests. However, that's a post for another day, if the protesters keep plugging away despite the blizzard approaching the East Coast.
- Incomes reported by tax returns at the high end of the income spectrum fell from 2008 to 2009, as did their share of the nation's income and income taxes paid. In 2009, the top 1% of tax returns paid 36.7% of all federal individual income taxes and earned 16.9% of adjusted gross income (AGI), compared to 2008 when those figures were 38.0% and 20.0%, respectively.
- Each year from 2005 to 2007, the top 1%'s constantly growing share of income earned and taxes paid set a record. The 2008 reversal of this trend continued in 2009. In fact, the income share for the top 1% of tax returns was lower in 2009 than in 2000, largely due to differences in capital gains.
- In 2009, as in 2008, the top 1% no longer pays a larger percentage of total income tax than the bottom 95%. This trend was exacerbated by the aforementioned precipitous drop in AGI in 2009. During 2009, the bottom 95% (AGI under $154,643) paid 41.3% of the total collected, a larger share than the 36.7% paid by the top 1% (AGI over $343,947).
- The top-earning 5% of taxpayers (AGI equal to or greater than $154,643), however, still paid far more than the bottom 95%. The top 5% earned 31.7% of the nation's adjusted gross income, but paid approximately 58.7% of federal individual income taxes.
- Since 2001, the IRS has also been presenting data on a small subset of the top 1%, the top 0.1%. In 2009, this top 0.1% filed 137,982 tax returns, reporting 7.8% of all adjusted gross income earned and paying approximately 17.1% of the nation's federal individual income taxes. The average income for a tax return in the top 0.1% was $4.4 million in 2009, while the average amount of income tax paid was $1.07 million, indicating an average effective individual income tax rate of 24.3%.
- Overall, these data on high-income tax returns appear to confirm that the continued economic stagnation had the same diminishing effect on income inequality that most recessions have, and that it occurred for the same reason: a sharp decline in income at the high end. This appears to contradict reports based upon Census data suggesting the opposite that the recession increased income inequality.
For today, the data inspire several questions. President Obama and his cheerleaders on the political left want to "spread the wealth" around. They believe that "millionaires and billionaires," defined as working professional married couples with $250,000 in taxable income, aren't contributing their "fair share" to the federal government.
Three questions for the political left:
[Q1] In 2009, the top 0.1% of taxpayers paid 17.1% of all individual income taxes, the top 1% of taxpayers paid 36.7% of all individual income taxes, and the top 5% of taxpayers paid 58.7% of all individual income taxes.Tax bloggers on the political left, I look forward to seeing the answers to these straightforward questions.
What percentage of individual income taxes should be paid by each sub-group to be considered their "fair share"? The answer should be a simple percentage, for example, 25% for the top 0.1%, 45% for the top 1% and 65% for the top 5% (numbers are illustrative only, not my view).
[Q2] If we increase taxes on the top 5% as you recommend in A1, will that solve the short-term or long-term budget gaps associated with current spending projections? Or will we also be required to increase taxes on the bottom 95% of taxpayers to solve the fiscal imbalance?
[Q3] Do you really believe that increasing taxes as set forth in A1 and A2 will address the wealth imbalance between the wealthiest 1% and the remaining 99%? Note that increased taxes on the bottom 99% or bottom 95% will decrease their ability to accumulate resources and "catch up" to the top 1%.