Despite claims by some that the rich pay less than the rest of America, the average tax rate paid by the top 400 earners in 2013 was far higher than the share paid by most Americans.
According to the Tax Policy Center, Americans in the middle-income quartile paid an effective federal income tax rate of 3.1 percent of all their expanded cash income in 2013. The two lowest quintiles received money back from the government.
Most of the income for the super-earners in the U.S. comes from capital gains — usually the sale of a stock, business or real estate. In 2013, 54 percent of the group's adjusted gross income came from capital gains, down from 68 percent in 2012, due to the income shifting. Only 8.45 percent of their income came from wages and salaries.
Because most of the top 400 earners make the list by selling an asset or stock, they don't often appear again the following year. Of the 4,474 people who have been on the list since 1992, 72 percent have only made the list one year. Only 12 percent have made it two years, and fewer than 3 percent have been on the list for 10 or more years.
"The top 400 is people who hit it big in one year," Williams said. "They either sold stock or a family business and that pushed them up there. You don't usually get there through regular, recurring salaries."
The top 400 earners also gave large amounts to charity in 2013 — and, of course, received the most charitable deductions.
They had a total of $12.9 billion in charitable deductions contributions in 2013, or an average of $32.8 million per taxpayer. That was the second-highest level ever recorded, following 2012 at $15.1 billion. The top 400 earners accounted for more than 6 percent of all charitable deductions in the U.S. that year.