Every quarter, the Statistics of Income Division of the Internal Revenue Service publishes financial statistics obtained from tax and information returns that have been filed with the federal government. Recently published reports reflect data gleaned from 2014 individual federal income tax returns. These reports offer a snapshot of how the U.S. population breaks down as taxpayers.
The big picture
For tax year 2014, U.S. taxpayers filed roughly 139.6 million individual income tax returns. Total adjusted gross income (AGI) reported on these tax returns was $9.71 trillion, resulting in a total income tax of $1.37 trillion. That works out to an overall average tax rate of 14.16 percent for all returns filed — the highest total average rate in the 10-year period represented by the statistical report.
If your 2014 AGI was $38,173 or more, you were in the top 50 percent of all federal income tax filers based on AGI. This group accounted for 88.7 percent of all AGI reported and paid 97.3 percent of total federal income tax for the year.
A look at the top
How much AGI did it take to make it into the top 10 percent of all individual filers? Probably not as much as you think. If your AGI was $133,445 or greater, you would have been one of the almost 14 million filers making up the top 10 percent. This group reported about $4.58 trillion in AGI (more than 47 percent of all AGI reported) and accounted for about 70.9 percent of total individual income tax for the year.
To make the top 5 percent, you would have needed $188,996 or more in AGI. You would have been among approximately 7 million filers who reported almost $3.5 trillion in total AGI and accounted for about 60 percent of total income taxes paid.
It’s also worth noting that the top 3 percent of all 2014 individual income tax returns based on AGI accounted for 52.9 percent of total income tax paid for the year.
The very, very top
For the 2014 tax year, 1.4 million returns had an AGI of $465,626 or more. These taxpayers make up the top 1 percent of filers, reporting almost $2 trillion in total AGI and responsible for just under a 40-percent share of the total tax haul.
The 1,396 income tax returns that showed $56,981,718 or more in AGI make up the top 0.001 percent (that’s the top one-thousandth of 1 percent) of 2014 filers. These filers together reported over $207 billion in AGI and paid over 3.6 percent of taxes.
Not all high-income returns showed tax
Of the 6.2 million income tax returns filed for 2014 with an AGI of $200,000 or more, 10,905 showed no U.S. income tax liability (the number drops to 3,927 if you eliminate returns filed by individuals who were responsible for income taxes to foreign governments and had no U.S. income tax because of a credit for such taxes paid).
Why did these high-income returns show no U.S. tax liability? The IRS report noted a variety of reasons, including tax credits and deductions, most notably miscellaneous deductions and deductions for charitable contributions, medical and dental expenses, and investment interest expenses. A significant secondary factor was the deduction for taxes paid.
BARBARA KENERSON is first vice president/Investments at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC and can be reached at BarbaraKenerson.com.