Wealth-accumulation tax breaks favor rich
By Russ WIles
By Russ WIles
PHOENIX — The rich apparently are getting richer — thanks partly to federal wealth-accumulation policies that heavily favor affluent Americans.
So says a study, released yesterday, that estimates 45 percent of government tax breaks and other incentives to encourage homeownership, saving and small-business formation go to households earning $1 million and up.
Just 3 percent of such benefits for individuals are shared among the lowest 60 percent of households by income. The study from the nonpartisan Corporation for Enterprise Development in Washington, D.C., was released at a Phoenix conference aimed at boosting wealth accumulation among lower-income groups.
"The people taking advantage of these benefits, frankly, are the ones who need the least help," said David Buchholz, a research director and co-author of the study.
Stated differently, the group estimates the typical millionaire household derived more than $169,000 in tax benefits from mortgage-interest deductions, property-tax deductions and favorable tax policies on capital gains and dividends.
That compares with an estimated benefit of just under $1,500 for households earning $90,000 to $100,000 annually, and a benefit of $122 for those in the $35,000 to $40,000 range.
The Corporation for Enterprise Development, a non-profit organization, based its wealth-distribution estimates around what it calls the major asset-building subsidies for individuals — the mortgage-interest and property-tax deductions for homeowners, plus favorable dividend/capital-gain policies, including the ability of homeowners to exclude capital-gain taxes on certain housing profits.
These incentives account for about half the estimated $362 billion Uncle Sam provided in 2005 to encourage wealth accumulation by individuals.