Richest Americans' Average Income Dropped 25 Percent In Single Year

The Rich Sure Took A Beating During The Recession

Among the richest Americans, even being average means being extremely wealthy.

On average, the 400 highest-income tax filers raked in $202.4 million in 2009, according to IRS data cited by CNNMoney. That's 25 percent lower than the $270.5 million in taxable income they brought home on average in 2008. But CNNMoney make sure to note that those numbers don't take into account tax-exempt income.

Don't feel too bad for them. Half of U.S. households had a total annual income of less than $50,020 in January: 7.8 percent lower than in December 2007, according to Sentier Research.

And those super-rich 400 Americans pay an average tax rate of 19.9 percent-- the same tax rate for a worker making just $110,000 per year, according to Reuters columnist David Cay Johnston. "The top 400 earned five times that much every day," Johnston writes.

Perhaps even more outrageous, more than 10,000 wealthy households paid no federal income taxes at all, according to a recent IRS study.

But it's not just those wealthy households that got a lucky break. Tax rates have fallen the most for the richest Americans since the mid-1990s. Tax rates for the top 0.01 percent plunged 9.4 percent between 1995 and 2007, while tax rates for the 20th to 99th percentiles fell just 2.9 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The discrepancy in tax rates may be contributing to the nation's wealth gap. America's top 1 percent seized 93 percent of all income gains in the first year of the economic recovery, according to Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

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