Unexpectedly Intriguing!
September 20, 2011

What tax deductions do the rich and famous, as well as all other Americans who earn more than $200,000 per year, claim on their U.S. tax returns, and how much do they claim for each?

Using the most recently available tax return data for 2009, we found out and visualized the results into the following chart:

Itemized Tax Deductions for People Earning $200,000 or More in 2009

In 2009, people with incomes over $200,000 claimed $67.8 billion in itemized tax deductions on their tax returns for that year. Of that amount, the largest share of $22.8 billion, or roughly 34% of the total, was claimed through the mortgage interest tax deduction.

The second largest category was the tax deduction for paying state and local income, sales and personal property taxes, which absorbed $20.1 billion, or about 30% of the total.

We should note that people filing income taxes have been able to claim both deductions on their federal income tax returns since the income tax went into effect in 1913. The only difference is that Americans used to be able to claim all the interest paid on their debts, rather than just their mortgage interest, which was changed by the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

Meanwhile, charitable contributions accounted for $19.1 billion of the total deductions claimed by those earning $200,000 or more in 2009, or 28% overall.

Combined, these three categories of itemized tax deductions represent over 91% of all the itemized tax deductions claimed by people who earned $200,000 or more in 2009.

All other tax deductions, covering things like real estate taxes, medical deductions, child care, etc. amounted to less than 9% of the total $67.8 billion claimed by these high-earning taxpayers

Data Source

Joint Committee on Taxation. Estimates of Federal Tax Expenditures for Fiscal Years 2010-2014. 21 December 2010.


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