The 1% Games: More Than 50,000 New Yorkers Pay Zero City Income Taxes

Perhaps you will be pleased to know that the number of New York City households reporting incomes of more than $1 million has climbed by 47 percent, from 14,795 in 2009 to 21,764 in 2013.

Or maybe you do not see this as good news.

Whatever problems are associated with having too much money, a vast majority of New Yorkers do not have them: 87 percent of the city’s households reported wages under $100,000 in 2013, according to tax data released on Tuesdayby the city’s Independent Budget Office.

The average household had wage income of $51,876. Half the city’s 3.6 million households reported wages at or under the city median of $24,239. A long, luxe ladder away, 1,315 households reported incomes of $10 million or more.

Absorbing as they are, these data threaten to become a kind of money porn, with familiar positions and outcomes. That risks numbing us to a powerful revelation:

A select group of New York households reported “negative income” and paid no city income taxes, even though they took in $1.8 billion in capital gains, dividends, interest and wages: 54,348 households reported income below zero. The most benign explanation is that a shopkeeper, restaurant owner or manufacturer had a bad year, and the business losses wiped out any taxable income for the household.

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