Of 4.5 Million US Tax Filers With Income Over $200,000, 13,142 Paid No US, 4,354 Paid No Worldwide Income Tax

Tyler Durden's picture

The latest IRS Statistics Of Income Report is out. In it, the IRS focuses on the wealthy segment of US population, i.e., those falling over the proverbial $200,000/year cutoff. What the IRS finds, is that in 2007, of the 4,576,315 tax returns with expanded income of $200,000 or more, 13,142 (0.287%) had no US income tax liability, and 4,354 (0.095%) had no worldwide income tax liability. These numbers are an increase of 2,100 and 32, respectively, over 2006. Some other interesting, but less relevant to the administration findings: when measuring income in current (not constant) dollars, the percentage of Americans making over $200,000 in 2007 was 3.201%, or 4.576 million, of all 143 million tax returns. Back in 1976, this number was 0.078%, or 67,580 of all 86.6 million tax returns, or 67.6 times less. However, when measured in 1976 constant dollars (indexed for inflation), only 618,154 American made the 2007 equivalent of $200,000 from 1976. This number is 10.5 times more than the 58,991 tax filers who made the same amount 30 years earlier.

Visualizing the wealthy in America in graph form yields the following results:

Yet what the US government is much more interested is the segment of the uber-wealthy which reports making over $200,000 yet ends up paying no tax on this. The IRS discusses this phenomenon:

Of returns with expanded income of $200,000 or more in current dollars, 0.287 percent reported no U.S. income tax for 2007, and 0.095 percent had no worldwide income tax. When looking at these returns using 1976 constant  dollars, the percentage without U.S. income tax liability was 0.220; the percentage without worldwide income tax liability was 0.049.

Figure D shows the number of returns with no worldwide income tax and with expanded income of $200,000 or more and their proportion of all high expanded income returns for 1977 through 2007. These data are shown in both  current-year and 1976 constant dollars. In this figure, the spread between the two percentage lines was small for the late 1970s, showed an increase for the early 1980s, and then narrowed before widening again after 1988. The spread generally narrowed after 1993 but has increased or stayed fairly consistent since 2002. Note that, because the number of nontaxable returns with expanded income of $200,000 or more is based on samples, year-to-year differences in the numbers and percentages of nontaxable returns with expanded income of $200,000 or more may represent sampling variability, in addition to actual changes in the numbers of such returns. Beginning with Tax Year 1991, nontaxable returns with expanded income of $200,000 or more were sampled at higher rates for Statistics of Income, which reduced the sampling variability of these returns and therefore provided improved estimates. Thus, the data for returns prior to 1991 are not entirely comparable with data for more recent years.

Here is what the tax "avoidance" table looks like:

These results graphed:

Why do so many of America's richest pay no taxes? Here are the IRS' reasons for nontaxability:

It is possible for certain itemized deductions and certain exclusions from income to cause nontaxability by themselves, but high-income returns are more often nontaxable as a result of a combination of reasons, none of which, by itself, would result in nontaxability. Moreover, some items, which singly or in combination may eliminate “regular tax”  liability, i.e., income tax excluding the alternative minimum tax (AMT), cannot eliminate an AMT liability, since these items give rise to adjustments or preferences for AMT purposes.

Because they do not generate AMT adjustments or preferences, tax-exempt bond interest, itemized deductions for interest expense, miscellaneous itemized deductions not subject to the 2-percent-of-AGI fl oor, casualty or theft losses, and medical expenses (exceeding 10 percent of AGI) could, by themselves, produce

Due to the AMT exemption of $66,250 on joint returns ($44,350 on single and head-of-household returns and $33,125 on returns of married taxpayers fi ling separately), a return could have been nontaxable, even though it included some items that produced AMT adjustments or preferences. Further, since the starting point for “alternative minimum taxable income” was taxable income for regular tax purposes, a taxpayer could have adjustments and preferences exceeding the AMT exclusion without incurring AMT liability. This situation could occur if taxable income for regular tax purposes was sufficiently negative, due to itemized deductions and personal exemptions exceeding AGI, that the taxpayer’s AMT adjustments and preferences are less than the sum of the AMT exclusion and the amount by which regular taxable income is below zero.

Note that, because of the AMT, taxpayers may have found it beneficial to report additional deduction items on their tax returns, even if the items did not produce a benefit for regular tax purposes. Tables 7 and 8 classify tax returns by the items that had the largest and second largest effects in reducing or eliminating income tax. For returns on which each of the largest effects was identified, the tables show each of the second largest effects.

For example, Table 7 shows that, on taxable returns with some U.S. income tax and expanded income of $200,000 or more, the taxes paid deduction was the most important item 48.0 percent of the time. Where this was the primary item, the interest paid deduction was the second most important item 58.0 percent of the time, and the charitable contributions deduction was the second most important item 24.5 percent of the time.

Table 8 shows that on returns without any worldwide tax and expanded income of $200,000 or more, the most important item in eliminating tax, on 46.0 percent of returns, was the exclusion for State and local government interest (“tax-exempt interest”). For these returns, the itemized deduction for taxes paid was the second most important item 27.7 percent of the time, and the deduction for medical and dental expenses was the second most important item 24.9 percent of the time.

Table 8 also shows that, the four categories with the largest effect in reducing taxes on high-adjusted gross-income returns with no worldwide income tax were the total miscellaneous deductions (1,776 returns, or 36.7 percent of the 4,840 tabulated returns with AGI of $200,000 or more and with no worldwide tax liability); investment interest expense deduction (907 returns, or 18.7 percent); foreign-earned income exclusion (498 returns, or 10.3 percent); and medical and dental expense deduction (480 returns, or 9.9 percent). These effects are also shown graphically
in Figure E.

For high-expanded-income returns with no worldwide income tax, the four categories that most frequently had the largest effect in reducing taxes were tax-exempt interest (2,004 returns, or 46.0 percent of the 4,354 tabulated returns with expanded income of $200,000 or more and with no worldwide tax liability); medical and dental expense deductions(772 returns, or 17.7 percent); partnership and S corporation net losses (334 returns, or 7.7 percent); and charitable contributions deduction (316 returns, or 7.3 percent). These effects are also shown graphically in Figure F.

Table 8 also shows that the items that most frequently had the second largest effect in reducing regular tax liability for high-expanded-income returns with no worldwide tax were the deduction for taxes paid (1,104 returns, or 25.4 percent) and tax-exempt interest (647 returns, or 14.9 percent).


Full report can be read here.

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Captain Obviousness's picture

What a shocker - they make byzantine tax laws with all these loopholes carved out by lobbyists, then they are shocked - SHOCKED - when rich people pay lawyers to find all the loopholes.  I'm sure the solution is to make even more complicated tax laws (which lobbyists will surely create loopholes in).  They deserve what they get.  Starve the beast.

Switch to some version of a flat tax with no deductions whatsoever, period.  They could probably lower the income tax rate and still generate more revenue by getting rid of all the deductions and other loopholes that can be used only by people who can afford (and justify the cost of) tax lawyers.

Better yet, abolish the income tax and replace it with VAT.

Ripped Chunk's picture

Better yet:

Put all the lawyers, accountants and IRS folks in one arena (the NO Superdome sounds right)

then add lions, monster trucks and flamethrowers.

November incumbent bloodbath (in case I haven't mentioned this yet)


Common_Cents22's picture

cant blame accountants.   leave the lawyers and IRS in and add CONgress.

Ripped Chunk's picture

Yes you are right. The accountants can score the "matches" for the pay per view gambling participants.  Then clean up the shitters, vomitoriums and the corpses afterward.

I mean, that's what we already do anyway.


Kat's picture


I'll bet the source of a lot of that income for people were tax advantaged - like distributions from Roth and mostly muni bond income.

The Supreme Court already ruled that Muni income is untouchable by the Feds (and Fed income is all the IRS monitors - in states with an income tax, Muni holders paid taxes to the state).

I predict more people will invest in munis and other tax advantaged investments in response to next year's tax hike.

OR the Feds could just lower the tax RATE to encourage people to engage in productive activity to raise tax REVENUE.  Way too logical for the average government wonk.

Ripped Chunk's picture


It lurks everywhere.

Kat's picture

Enter the black market, where you can get you income untaxed.

Reminds me of that Star Wars line Princess Leia delivered to Darth  Vader - "The more you clench your fist, the more we will slip through your fingers".

People don't tend to go quietly when you try to rob them.  After the Soviet Union collapsed and everyone got a good look, it was estimated the black market was larger than the official economy.

The U.S. is toast, btw.  It'll just be a slow steady collapse over the next few decades.



mannfm11's picture

That is kind of a chicken way to call a collapse Kat.  Your house is going to slowly collapse over the next few decades as well.  Is it time to tear it down.  By the way, I haul off junk if you have a sizable number of dollars for me.  The entire world medium of exchange is the dollar.  If China wants to step up and risk its entire wealth to put up a new medium of exchange we might be ready for it, but the Chinese money can't even stand the light of day.  At present, China isn't much more than a tourist dude ranch, another big ploy to separate us from our hard earned cash.  When they show up with a real sherriff and some real outlaws and they have real financial statements and private property, we might see a new medium of exchange.  In the meantime, I think we are going to see an opportunity that the dollar is going to acquire some nice assets. 

I was reading an interesting take from the 1830's on the nature of the value of money, which was described as money has no value other than the payment of debts.  Its value against other things fluctuates.  Under this theory, gold is going up because people are wearing it around their necks and its supply above ground is down to 60 years.  It won't be long before people are hocking it so they can buy something to keep their trips to the toilet regular.  After all this time, I realize the significance of "This note is legal tender for all debts public and private".  You have a mortgage?  They don't take anything that won't produce one of these notes as payment other than deed in lieu of foreclosure. 

RonnieHonduras's picture

AMT totally screws you today vs. back then. Take 1977:

$200k today ain't the "uber wealthy" Today's $200k in 1977 was about $55,670 in inflation adjusted dollars using the BLSs own inflation calculator.  The top marginal tax bracket back then was at $200k, inconveniently $718,254 in today's dollars.


These lying bastards don't want people to realize they've dowhshifted the uber wealthy classification to what formerly was upper middle class.

RonnieHonduras's picture

I correct myself.  Having finally found some tax history tables, the published income tax rate for those making $57k was 53% ($55.2k-$65.2k), not including deductions and loopholes, which supposedly abounded back then compared to today.


Here are the tables I found:


RonnieHonduras's picture

Yes, but I find the tax tables from 1913 far more attractive, and the ultimate direct path to a recovering economy vs. the current mythical redistributionista path that has slowly strangled so much of the economy, sending consumers gasping abroad just to keep a modicum of a standard of living.

Ripped Chunk's picture

Personal AMT is 28%, So think: go ahead and buy that big house that we have so nicely inflated the price of. Then come to find out that your $80,000 mortgage interest deduction just put you into AMT!

No they can't be that smart can they?????

Remember the TV commercials for that game "Mouse Trap"??


primefool's picture

The 47% of the american population that pays NO taxes -(the ones that you'll find in protest marches about taxpayer bailouts of wall street) - would not go for any kind of tax simplification/VAT.

Having said that I sincerely believe the single biggest bang for the buck in getting the US economy really kicked into high gear would be a drastic tax simplification - or elimination of income tax. All kinds of investments and entrepreurs would flood back into the country. Business investments would pick up dramatically. And the gargantuan waste of time and resources in simply preparing/planning tax returns would go down.

Ripped Chunk's picture

Engineer turns up the laugh track to "deafening"

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

100% correct.  Make the tax code much simpler, and junk the income tax for something that does not invade our privacy.  Bang!  Our economy comes roaring back.

Will never happen.


Ripped Chunk's picture

Engineer turns up the laugh track to "deafening". Citizens roll on the floor clutching their ears in pain as local bank branch managers and the regional IRS collectors go thought their pockets.

November incumbent bloodbath. I can't say it enough.


mannfm11's picture

I think elimination of bank charters and limited liability might be the biggest boom.  An excise on business incomes over a certain amount isn't that bad an idea.  Maybe 10% over $1 million.  Social Security should be funded as a sales tax and it should be pay as you go so the government can't spend it and claim their former spending is a trust fund.  An elimination of Washington DC order directives would be in order and getting out of the permanent state of war we find ourselves in would also work.  In addition to what I just wrote above, the Constitution says that "No state shall make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debt", according to the author I read was that it was a perfect right for a creditor to accept what he wished as payment of debt, but a government couldn't refuse him the right to ask for payment in gold and silver.  The debt situation has to be cleaned up or we don't go anywhere.

Calculated_Risk's picture

"You want me to be the Economic Dictator?"
"And you’d obey any order I give?"
"Then start by abolishing all income taxes."
"Oh, no!" screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. "We couldn't do that! That's . . . that's not the field of production. That's the field of distribution. How would we pay government employees?"
"Fire your government employees."
"Oh, no! That's politics! That's not economics! You can't interfere with politics! You can't have everything!"

HarryWanger's picture

What I find interesting is that people making $200k per year are considered "rich". The focus should be on those making "real" money in the $1M plus category. $200k sounds "rich" but in reality it's not much to go around when you consider kids, mortgages, tuitions, etc. Many "rich" people making $200k per year actually struggle somewhat.

WaterWings's picture

> $200,000 - not around - and not a household figure; single return. I bet the median and average for this creme category is well above that. All us trailer trash skew the numbers and make the USA look poor. :-(

RonnieHonduras's picture

Finding this rant generally a little short-sighted.

Let's be clear, though, comparing apple to apples.  Everyone is making such a big deal about $200k being the "uber wealthy", comparing the tax rates for those making $200k back in the 1970s.  But inflatino adjusted, $200k in 1977 was a scant $55,670 in inflation adjusted dollars.  What was the tax rate for people making $57k in 1976?  Top rates were at $200k. 

In today's dollars, that would be at  $718,254. Goes to show how these A@@holes have screwed the system, and why it takes two income families to make ends meet today.

WaterWings's picture

Yeah, ouch. Two incomes and still not enough to "retire".

chunkylover42's picture

exactly.  try making $200k per year living in Manhattan and see how "rich" you feel then.

Thoreau's picture

Anyone who can't "get by" comfortably on 200K definitely falls into the petty useless breather category.

Kat's picture

In NYC $200K buys you closet euphemistically called an "apartment" and a metrocard.

Reflexivity's picture

Noooo!  Stay up North please.  There is nothing to see south of Washintong DC, except for the beautiful beaches of South Florida -- absolutely nothing to going on between the two.

Steaming_Wookie_Doo's picture

Right--the report hides data. 200K is good, but not so good that you can not work.

The real question is who were the ones who didn't pay anything. Were they over 1mil, 10mil, 100mil, 1bil? Betcha dollars to doughnuts it was one or more vampire mummy billionaires who, thru the use of trusts and 'non-profits', didn't register a dime of tax, but whose lifestyles are totally fueled by these ends.

WaterWings's picture

And they were the ones getting other people's money pumped into their business via gov't contracts, etc. Double stacking the asymmetrical advantages.

Hulk's picture

For the first time, I agree with you HarryWanger...

Mercury's picture

So, less that 1/3 of 1% of all >=$200k income tax filers are lttle old ladies who's entire income stream comes from tax free munis. 

Big deal.  And welcome to Florida by the way.

I'm pretty sure taxing municipal bond income just now will end up costing the Feds way more grief and money than it's worth (and that's just from the muni issuers, never mind the old ladies).

*sigh* We'll have to look somewhere else...Next slide Tim.

Raymond K Hassel's picture

you nailed it Mercury -  small percentage - and from my experience usually not a good place to be.  This isn't catching loopholes - loopholes keep the income off the return in the first place and this data is based on returns.  Little old lady with half her income coming from munis, living in a nursing home that runs 8 or 9k a month with 10k a year in Rx and a broker charging her 15k a year in management fees.  She can't get raped by Uncle Sam on the 1040 because the rest of the gang got to her first. 

WaterWings's picture

Thanks, Tyler. Always wondered about that: How many rich pay nothing. Taxing the rich - what a joke. It's squeezing every drop of blood out of what's left of the middle class.

SayItAintSo's picture

Chart takes off just a few years after we took ourselves off the gold standard...

So we started to print more money...Growth/GDP/Wealth artificially created = Larger % of Wealthy ($200k+) Tax Payers...makes sense.

mix's picture

A big item is that in 1976 dollars the rate of > 200,000 returns went up less than .5 per cent, despite the increasing money supply and credit supply ( to be sure on a bigger total population base). Al the bubbles did was to increase tax revenue though the back door

Leo Kolivakis's picture

And you were all laughing at Greece...same shit goes on everywhere!

faustian bargain's picture

LOL @ everywhere. Governments are all schmucks screwing over the people. Greece just happens to be pretty bad at it.

Hulk's picture

Never laughing at Greece Leo. Folks dying not funny.

I'm in US and know we are huge ponzi....


Mazarin's picture

$200k in 1977 was serious money (akin to $2 million/year today). Now it's merely "getting by" upper-middle-class in any big city. The constant $ number has barely grown...and is negative when you factor population growth. 

malek's picture

Whew, what a garbled mess!

First this shows certain individuals (or households?) pay no US tax - but this doesn't necessarily mean they can keep the money.

"Interest expense" is the interest part you pay to the bank on you mortgage instead, right?

And "taxes paid" is when I receive a dividend on my Swedish stock, their tax authorities take 30% off, which I see as "Foreign Tax Withheld At The Source" on my statement. I can claim that as Foreign Tax Credit on Form 1116.

"charitable contributions" really helps you lower your taxes somewhat as you may slide down the progressive tax curve a bit for your remaining income. But that was designed to support charitable contributions.

"tax-exempt interest" was also created on purpose to be as such.
Same for "medical expenses" deduction.

So where is the news?

Raymond K Hassel's picture

The number of US Citizens making over 200k on their '08 & '09 returns - that's the number I want to see - '07 was still a very damn good year relatively speaking.

rawsienna's picture

Now - what percent of those making over 200K are Obama supporters - my guess is close to 95%!!!

DosZap's picture

I submit this is because most folks in these brackets are SBO's, and the economy sucks to put it mildly.

Have make a PROFIT before you can pay taxes..........

mannfm11's picture

I hate to defend rich people, but this is nothing but a paid political announcement.  If they are counting tax free interest in this amount, then the $200,000 never included taxable income and shouldn't be presented as such.  Also, if a well to do guy got sick, his medical deductions could wipe out his entire income.  Sure beats hell out of the indingent that costs the taxpayer that much directly.  Government decides if these people pay taxes.  If government wants to get out of the social engineering business, then stop the deductions.  If government got 100%, the rest might be satisfied, but there would be nothing left of the capital structure of the country's economy in 6 months.  Most of us may work, but we eat and shit a whole bunch and many of us eat and shit more than we take in.  The income taxes in this household were near $80,000 on about $270,000, probably 20 times what the average Joe pays.  The income was there because starting from near zero, money was saved and invested and hard work went into the equation.  The lobby is going to be for a higher tax rate, but what is rich?  $200,000 a year doesn't go too far when one drives a couple  of luxury cars, sends the kids to good schools and the homestead has a $500,000 mortgage plus taxes.  Many in that position are good candidates for the bankruptcy courts. 

If they want to raise taxes, do it on those supernatural incomes.  The guys that are making over $500,000 a year or $1 million.  Tax the crap out of the guys that are hiding behind the limited liability shields of corporate America, not the people that have their asses on the line.  Better yet, get rid of the titles of nobility that drive all this stuff in the first place, the bank charters and all the nonsense that creates all these naked contracts of theft, that impose full liability on one party and let the other party dump its losses on the public. 

There are other reasons for high incomes not to be taxed, namely losses.  How many returns claimed large losses one year then carried forward the loss to wipe out a large gain the next year.  2008 could produce a lot of losses that were offset by gains in 2009. 

What is always avoided is how much government employees make.  How is $200,000 a year risking ones ass and assets rich when $150,000 a year, sucking on the public tit, earning a pension that would cost $2 million to fund and having full benefits on top not at least equal?  There are a sizable number of employees of governments nationwide that are in this income range, especially in California and NY.  We are being called on to bail them out and then tax incomes that really aren't any more when you count up the costs of the fringe benefits, so these assholes can continue to draw their guarantees.  It is this suck of government out of the middle that is sinking the country, not the $200,000 a year guys that pay no taxes for reasons that serve to support government.  If you think tax free debt is that much of a free ride, wait until the coming defaults occur and you will change your tune. 

Hulk's picture

spot on mannfm11 on the government employees. half to one quarter of the work load too

Only place where work is a vacation...or a free porn show