IRS Data from 1992-2008 on the Top 400 Show Significant Turnover: 73% Remain for Only 1 Year

In Table 4 of the IRS bulletin “The 400 Individual Income Tax Returns, 1992-2008,” they report the “Frequency of Appearing in the Top 400 Tax Returns for Tax Years 1992-2008.”

Over the 17 tax years between 1992 and 2008, there were a total of 6,800 tax returns analyzed (400 per year), and because some individuals appeared in the top 400 for more than one year, there were 3,672 unique taxpayers. Here is what the IRS found about the ever-changing group of the top 400 taxpayers:

1. Almost three out of four of those individuals (2,676 or 72.88%) were in the top 400 taxpayer group for only a single year over the 17-year period.

2. Only 439 individuals, or 11.96% of the total, remained in the top 400 for two years. Therefore, almost 85% (or 3,115 of the 3,672 total) were in top 400 for only one or two years.

3. Only 1% of the sample group (37 out of 3,672) stayed in the top 400 for 14 years or more, and only 4 taxpayers (or about 1/10 of 1 percent or 1 in a 1,000) stayed in the group for the entire 17-year period.

MP: The IRS study of the top 400 taxpayers over a 17-year period provides additional evidence of significant income mobility over time. Individuals do not remain stuck in the same static income groups, quintiles, percentages or brackets over their careers or lifetimes, but instead move dynamically both up and down through those statistical groups from year to year.

About Mark J. Perry 262 Articles

Affiliation: University of Michigan

Dr. Mark J. Perry is a professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan.

He holds two graduate degrees in economics (M.A. and Ph.D.) from George Mason University in Washington, D.C. and an MBA degree in finance from the Curtis L. Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

Since 1997, Professor Perry has been a member of the Board of Scholars for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan research and public policy institute in Michigan.

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