- Days left

How Thousands of Wealthy People Pay No Taxes (It's Totally Legal)

×
1% doesn't pay taxes?With the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its focus on the 1%, the wealthiest people in the U.S. have gotten a lot of attention lately. Yet despite arguments back and forth about whether the rich pay their fair share, one thing is certain: Some high-income earners pay no taxes at all.

A recent IRS study found that one in every 189 taxpayers earning $200,000 or more in adjusted gross income paid no income tax in 2009, the most recent year for which complete data is available. That's more than 10,000 wealthy households paying no taxes anywhere in the world, and more than 35,000 paying no U.S. income tax.

How Did They Swing That?

There are several popular methods high-income taxpayers employ to cut their taxes. The most widely used is to invest in tax-exempt municipal bonds, which pay interest that you don't have to include as taxable income on your tax return.

But itemized deductions also play a key role in reducing tax liability for the rich. Although medical and dental expenses aren't deductible until you spend at least 7.5% of your income on them, some rich taxpayers can use expenses they'd have to pay anyway to offset all of their income. Similarly, deductions for state income and property taxes, as well as charitable contributions, also help rich taxpayers reduce their tax burden.

Idle Threats

The fact that the rich can pay little or no tax under current law has led to proposals to change those laws.

Between the so-called "Buffett Rule," which would impose minimum tax rates on high-income taxpayers, and calls to limit the tax benefits from certain popular deductions, the rich soon may no longer be able to escape paying tax entirely.

But in an election year, it's hard to envision such measures getting through Congress to become law -- and unless they at some point do, the rich will still have perfectly legal ways to protect their income from the IRS.

For more on your taxes: You can follow Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger on Twitter here.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Managing your Portfolio

Keeping your portfolio and financial life fit!

View Course »

Banking Services 101

Understand your bank's services, and how to get the most from them

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

11 Fun Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

There are plenty of practical ways to spend your tax refund ? such as saving for major expenses, banking it as the start of an emergency fund or paying down debt. But it?s hard to resist the allure of spending some or all of your refund on something a little more fun. If that?s the road you want to go down, here are some ways suggestions.

A Tax Filing Factsheet for eBay Sellers

You can find almost anything for sale on eBay, from a piece of fine art to clippings of Justin Bieber?s hair. So it's no surprise that the IRS doesn't view all sellers alike in the online marketplace. You may not have to pay tax at all if you are essentially hosting an online garage sale, but if you run your eBay account more like a business, you should be reporting your sales to the IRS.

Tax Tips for Handymen and Odd Jobs

If you work as a handyman or do odd jobs around town for money, you are operating a business in the eyes of the IRS. Since you own your own business, you're likely a self-employed sole proprietor. This means you'll have lots of potential tax deductions to investigate.

Identity Theft: 7 Steps to Reclaiming Your Identity and Keeping it Safe

As more personal information continues to be stored online, the risk of identity theft also increases. In 2014 alone, the Bureau of Justice reported that 17.6 million U.S. residents experienced identity theft. If someone uses your personal data pretending to be you, it's a serious crime. With quick, decisive action, you can help discover the fraud, stop further damage and reclaim your identity. Here are six steps to get you on your way.