Business Income to Shoulder One-Third of Tax Increase on Top Earners

Published October 18, 2010

Advocates of allowing the top two federal income tax rates to expire claim only 2 or 3 percent of businesses would be affected, but a new Tax Foundation report shows more than one-third of the revenue from an increase in the top two rates would come from business income.

Approximately 39 percent of the $630 billion tax increase on high-income earners (defined by President Obama as individuals earning more than $200,000 and married couples earning more than $250,000) in 2011 would come from business income. This amounts to an extra $246 billion in taxes on business income over 10 years.

“The fact that ‘only’ 2 or 3 percent of taxpayers with business income would face higher taxes is meaningless to the debate,” said Tax Foundation President Scott Hodge, who wrote the paper. “What matters most is not the number of taxpayers impacted, but the amount of business income—and, therefore, business activity—impacted.”

Vast Majority Have Business Income
More than 74 percent of tax filers in the highest tax bracket report some business income, whereas just 20 percent of those at the lowest bracket do so.

Of the roughly $864 billion in taxable business income reported on individual income tax returns in 2008, nearly 68 percent was claimed by taxpayers earning more than $200,000, and 35 percent was claimed by taxpayers earning over $ 1 million.

“This means that the combined business income of every taxpayer earning up to $200,000 was still less than the total business income of taxpayers earning more than $1 million,” Hodge said.

More Than Corporate Income Tax
More business income is taxed under the individual income tax code as “pass-through” businesses (non-corporate firms such as sole proprietors, S-corporations, Limited Liability Corporations, and partnerships) than is taxed under the traditional corporate income tax code.

The number of pass-through businesses nearly tripled between 1980 and 2007, from roughly 10.9 million to more than 30 million. The number of traditional C-corporations declined steadily from 2.2 million in 1980 to 1.9 million in 2007.

In the same time period, net receipts for C-corporations roughly doubled, from $752 billion to $1.4 trillion, and net receipts from pass-through entities saw a six-fold increase, from $315 billion to more than $1.8 trillion.

Natasha Altamirano ([email protected]) is manager of media relations at the Tax Foundation.

Internet Info

Tax Foundation Special Report, No. 185, “Over One-Third of New Tax Increases to Come from Business Income:”