# If the rich paid all the taxes in the US, how many people would that be?

This is a math question, not a political question, so don’t comment on social upheaval, okay.

How far down the list of rich people would you have to go to collect the entire national tax?
If you start with Gates, and taxed his entire net worth (Forbes estimate is close enough) and went down the list would you need the ten richest guys? 100? 1000?

Total federal income tax revenue in 2005 was about \$2.15 trillion. I believe Gates’ net worth is estimated at around \$53 billion. So you’d need roughly 40 Bill Gates-sized fortunes to pay the whole tab.

that works for the first year, and then?

I guess the question is how much would you need to tak a reasonable number of rich guys to pay the tab.

What do you mean by tax? Income tax only or fund the entire federal budget-- Social Security, corporate taxes, etc.

And the answer, of course, is going to depend on the tax rate. If it stayed the same, you wouldn’t be able to do it (obviously), and if you change the tax rate, you’ll change what people do with their money (to hide it from taxes). When you say “tax his entire net worth” do you mean 100% tax on all his income or just confiscate everything he owns? Remember, that if you took all of BG’s MSFT stock to fund the government, you couldn’t just sell it all in one year unless you wanted the price to plummet. Who knows with the value would be if it were liquidated.

But, as I said, he wouldn’t be worth that much if you liquidated everything in one year. And some of his property might take more than a year to sell-- how many people could afford to buy his house at market value (whatever that even is for such a rare commodity).

Well, yeah. I thought that much was obvious. Also, most of his fortune is in MSFT stock, and liquidating all of it in a year would probably destroy the company.

Not to mention the selling of all his stock would depress the market considerably.

Don’t overthink it. It’s a math problem.
Put all the top numbers in a list, and to the right show the cumulative total.
At what number of entries would that equal the entire national tax.
Yes, “entire” does mean all taxes not just income tax.

It’s a complicated math problem though, we need to clarify.

The wealthiest people are billionaires but that is their net worth, not their income. Income is taxed differently depending on how it’s earned, and the bulk of their money is probably in various investments and whatnot that aren’t taxed directly (if I have \$1M in an S&P 500 Index Fund, I’m not paying taxes on \$1M, I’m paying taxes on the investment returns). If BG owns a \$50M house he pays property taxes on it which is different than income tax.

So we need to know (or at least estimate) how their money is spread out. I also assume that you mean we should apply the current tax rates as well (that is, if the IRS right now says “Any income over \$100k is taxed at 30%” then that’s what we’ll use in our calculations)?

No.
This is not at all about current tax rates. Why on earth would you think that? Clearly at the current rate, the list extends down to the poverty level.

Don’t overthink it. It’s a math problem.
Put all the top numbers in a list, and to the right show the cumulative total.
At what number of entries would that equal the entire national tax.
Yes, “entire” does mean all taxes not just income tax.
Net income is as reported in that annual Richest People issue.
We’re adding those numbers, not guesses at liquidated values.

Net income is a totally different thing than net worth.

Tax and confiscate are also totally different things.

I think what you are trying to ask is: if the government were to confiscate all assets from the richest people in the country, how many people would have to be sacrificed to equal a year of government spending.

The answer to that is not that many. You can find Forbes list of the 400 Richest American by net worth here.

I’m not about to add them all up for you, but that first page alone is about \$430 billion, so the total list is probably close to a trillion. We need to triple that to account for all spending, and the drop off is pretty severe, but the number is certainly under 10,000. Maybe even under 5,000.

How about this, if you had a kick-arse income tax (50’s or so), with no sheltering from it and applied it first to the riches and from then on down, at what income level could you stop collecting taxes?

Will you people stop trying to guess my motives?
It’s a math question.

If you are a super right wing rich guy, you might simply invert the question state it this way:
“That so and so gommint levies so much tax that a year’s worth would equal the net worth of ___ of our finest job creating billionaires!”

So the question becomes what is the number in the blank?

The question has already been answered: Count up the Forbes list until you get to 2.5 Trillion, there ya go. EM pretty much gave the answer. What more do you want?

It’s kind of hard not to “overthink” the question if you keep changing the question.

So do you want to talk about a 100 % income tax or confiscation of all wealth?

FWIW, we’d need about \$2.4 trillion in revenue to run the government for one year. CBO says the top 1% of earners had a 2003 an average income of \$1 million in 2003. With 1.1 million earners in the top 1%, a tax rate of 100% on all those people would theoretically yield \$1.1 trillion. The top 5% earners – or 5.8 million households (inclusive of the top 1%) – earn an average of 377,200. If I’m doing my math right, we’re looking at about \$2.2 trillion in revenue there.

So, a very rough answer to your question would be a 100% income rax rate would have to hit more than 6 million – probably like 8 million - households to fund one year of spending. Again, we’re just talking income here. Exapno Mapcase seemed to answer your confiscation question.

data in pdf. See pg 4.

Well, let’s see. That would be the part where the question mark is. “If the rich paid all the taxes in the US, how many people would that be?” Or, “What is the number in the blank?”
The answer is a single number.

You’ve got the resources now, why can’t you do it yourself.

Maybe I can help him. If each finger and toe is worth 200 billion dollars he can count up to 2 Trillion. If he takes off his pants he can get to 2.2 Trillion which is probably close enough.

AP, the problem here is that the question you think you are asking isn’t the question you typed. As evident from all the questions follwing the OP. The original question isn’t going to win any awards for clarity.