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Recent tax changes are reflected in new IRS statistics

July 15, 2016

Alan T. Huberman, CPA, MST

The IRS recently released its Spring 2016 Statistics of Income (SOI) Bulletin containing a treasure-trove of useful information. The bulletin contains data gleaned from more than 148 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2014 tax year. The data for 2014 reveal a corresponding increase in tax liability across all tax brackets. The SOI bulletin presents the most recent figures available for the 2014 tax year from various tax and information returns filed by U.S. taxpayers. In addition, the report compares the data to similar statistics measured in 2013. In general, the latest report shows a continued improvement in the national economy, year over year.

Tax Changes in 2014

Many effects felt by taxpayers in 2014 were extensions of tax law changes that had been implemented in 2013. In tax year 2014, the inflation-adjusted caps for each income tax bracket were raised, which meant that taxpayers whose income did not increase significantly from the previous year may have actually fallen into a lower tax bracket. The alternative minimum tax (“AMT”) experienced a slight increase.

As was the case in 2015 when the Bush-era tax cuts officially expired, the top tax rate for taxpayers remained at 39.6 percent. Taxpayers making more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married taxpayers), were also subjected to a Medicare surtax of 0.9 percent. “Pease limitations,” which place limitations on the itemized deductions of certain higher-income taxpayers, remained in effect for 2014. In addition, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act affected many taxpayers by imposing a “shared responsibility payment” for taxpayers who did not have health insurance in 2014.

Income Tax

According to the Spring 2016 bulletin, the number of individual income tax returns filed for tax year 2014 increased from the previous year aggregating to a total of 148.7 million, reflecting a 0.6 percent increase. Adjusted gross income (AGI) increased from $9.1 trillion to $9.7 trillion. Taxable income rose 8.0 percent to $6.9 trillion. The AMT experienced a 9.4 percent increase, for a total of $24.6 billion. The bulletin reported that total income tax and total tax liability both increased by 10 percent to $1.4 trillion.

In addition, the preliminary data for 2014 show that taxable income increased 8.0 percent to $6.9 trillion. The IRS reported that the average AGI on all 2014 individual income tax returns was $65,021, and average taxable income was $61,328, both representing increases from the 2013 amounts, by 5.4 percent and 6.1 percent respectively.

Tax Liability

The IRS’s preliminary data indicate that total tax liability for the 2014 tax year rose to $1.4 trillion owed, as reflected on more than 101 million returns. This figure increased from the $1.3 trillion reported for some 98.8 million returns filed in tax year 2013. Although total tax liability increased for all income categories, taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $250,000 or more experienced the steepest percent change in tax liability, with a 15.9 percent increase from 2013 to 2014 (calculated from the $622.2 billion owed for 2013 versus the $721.2 billion owed for 2014), the IRS reported. Overall, total tax liability increased by 10 percent over 2013’s figure, for a total of $1.4 trillion.

The increase in tax liability is likely the result of continued growth in capital gains distributions. For tax year 2014, the capital gains distributions rose to nearly $79 billion, up nearly 75 percent from tax year 2013’s $45.2 billion. In addition, net capital gains increased 34.4 percent to $586.5 billion. The amount of net capital gains reported on tax returns with $250,000 or more in adjusted gross income increased by $120.89 billion (from $323.42 billion for 2013 to $444.31 billion for 2014).

The continued increase in net capital gains may have likely contributed to the increase in the number of taxpayers in the highest tax brackets, which may, in part, explain the overall increase in tax liability between tax years 2013 and 2014. For example, the preliminary data for 2014 indicates that there were 431,477 more taxpayers in the $250,000 and up income category who reported net capital gains than there were for 2013. In addition, the corresponding increase in taxpayers for the $200,000 to $250,000 income category was 273,322 for 2014. The data show that all income categories, except that for AGI from $30,000 to under $50,000, experienced an increase in the number of tax returns reporting net capital gains.

The tax environment is constantly changing and these changes could result in opportunities for you and/or your business. Our tax professionals therefore keep abreast of these changes to help provide you with tax counsel that may help to minimize your tax liability. Planning is the foundation of our work and given that we are just past the half-way point in the year, now may be a good time to begin having conversations about your tax situation.

How BlumShapiro Can Help

BlumShapiro is committed to helping our clients realize savings through efficient tax compliance and effective tax planning. We emphasize timely communication and a team approach to servicing our clients’ needs. Hands-on tax partner and tax specialist involvement is provided to ensure that our clients receive the most experienced and in-depth technical expertise that we have to offer. Learn about the variety of tax services offered >>

Disclaimer: Any written tax content, comments, or advice contained in this article is limited to the matters specifically set forth herein.  Such content, comments, or advice may be based on tax statues, regulations, and administrative and judicial interpretations thereof and we have no obligation to update any content, comments or advice for retroactive or prospective changes to such authorities.  This communication is not intended to address the potential application of penalties and interest, for which the taxpayer is responsible, that may be imposed for non-compliance with tax law.


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