Taxes on Tippy Tippy Top

February 12, 2019

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren told CNBC the other day: “I want these billionaires to stop being freeloaders … I want them to pick up their fair share.”

Are billionaires freeloaders? To get an idea, we can look at IRS data on the Top 400 taxpayers in the nation with the highest incomes.

The Top 400 paid $29.4 billion in federal income taxes in 2014, an average of $74 million each. These “freeloaders” together paid enough to more than fund the budgets of NASA and the EPA that year ($26 billion).

The Top 400 paid 2.13 percent of all federal income taxes in 2014. That share has trended upwards over time, as shown in the chart. Indeed, the Top 400 share of taxes has doubled from 1.04 percent in 1992, which is the first year of IRS data.

This top group is just 0.0003 percent of all taxpayers yet paid 2.13 percent of all income taxes. Rather than freeloading, it seems that this “tippy tippy top” group, as Warren calls it, is paying more than its fair share.

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