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Tax data shows drop in number of New York millionaires

Joe Mahoney, CNHI State Reporter
Posted 12/29/22

Fresh Internal Revenue Service statistics show New York has seen shrinkage in its share of high income bracket earners.

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Tax data shows drop in number of New York millionaires


ALBANY — Fresh Internal Revenue Service statistics show New York has seen shrinkage in its share of high income bracket earners at a time when the nation as a whole counted more people in the $1 million-and-more income category, a new analysis has found.

The findings by E.J.McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy are likely to enliven the debate over whether New York should consider higher income tax surcharges on the wealthiest New Yorkers as a way to raise revenue to pay for state services.

The data examined by McMahon indicate the number of New Yorkers with adjusted gross annual income of more than $1 million dropped to 54,370 in 2020 from 55,100 one year earlier, for a decline of 1.3%.

In that same year, the year in which the pandemic first reached New York and other states, the number of millionaire earners nationally increased from 554,340 to 608,540 -- a gain of nearly 10%, the researcher noted.

Tax surcharges targeting the top tier of income earners is not the only reason why wealthy people might pack their belongings and leave New York, McMahon told CNHI. “But it’s preposterous to deny that it isn’t one of the key determinants,” he added. “And it’s the variable that the state government controls.”

His analysis revealed the state, in 2010, had 12.7% of the nation’s income millionaires. That was the year elected officials enacted what they called a millionaire’s tax -- what was initially intended as a temporary higher rate on millionaire earners.

By 2019 New York had 9.9% of the millionaire earners in the nation. That share fell again in 2020, to 8.9% of the total millionaire earners. One Democrat who is vigorously opposed to a more aggressive surcharge on the incomes of the state’s highest earners is New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “It blows my mind when I hear, ‘So what if they leave?’ No, you leave!” Adams said. “I want my high income earners right here.”

The leader of one progressive advocacy organization, Ronald Deutsch, director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, said he sees no evidence that higher taxes on wealthy residents have prompted them to go elsewhere in significant numbers.

“The evidence shows the wealthiest New Yorkers end up staying and I think the sad part is New Yorkers who are struggling and looking for opportunity are the ones who leave in search of those opportunities,” Deutsch said. “People stay when they’ve found those opportunities.”

“We have a lot of extremely wealthy people in New York and we should be looking at things like wealth taxes and inheritance taxes to pay for some of the things we desperately need -- like education and childcare -- and many of the things we talk about but pay lip service to and continue to fund inadequately.”

According to new estimates released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau, New York experienced the largest population decline in the nation this year, shedding 0.9% of its residents.

According to McMahon, the state’s population decline stemmed from a net migration outflow of 299,577 New Yorkers relocating outside the state.

Over the past two years, New York has seen 651,742 residents move to other states. That total exceeds the combined populations of Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester, McMahon said.

The state’s population is now an estimated 19,677,151, allowing New York to retain its spot as the fourth most populous state, trailing California, Texas and Florida.

In the one-year population snapshot, New York led the nation in numeric decline -- 180,341 fewer people -- as well as percentage decline.


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