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.