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A Profile of High Income Canadians

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This study uses administrative tax data and the Survey of Financial Security to explore trends in the number and characteristics of high-income Canadians, as well as their wealth and effective income tax rates, from 1982 to 2004. The paper uses a range of thresholds to delineate high income and emphasizes statistics on the top 5%, 1%, 0.1% and 0.01% of tax filers.

The study found that an individual income of $89,000 was needed to be counted among the top 5% if income recipients in 2004. A family income of $154,000 would place one in the top 5% of families. The growth in incomes at the high end has been quite rapid while incomes of the majority of the population remained stable. Compared with the U.S., Canada had significantly fewer high-income recipients in 2004, and their incomes were considerably less. Higher-income individuals tend to be middle aged married males that live in the larger urban centres. While women have made up a larger portion on the top 5% of tax filers since 1982, they have not made gains in the very highest income groups. High income Canadians have roughly the same share of total wealth as they do of total income.

High income Canadians, in line with an increasing share of total income, have been paying an increasing share of total personal income taxes. Their share of total income increased from 21% to 25% between 1992 and 2004 while their share of income taxes paid increased from 30% to 36%. At the same time their effective tax rate dropped from 29% to 27%. Thus despite lower tax rates the increase in incomes was large enough, when combined with the progressive tax system, to result in an increased share of total taxes paid by high income Canadians. There is considerable heterogeneity in effective tax rates at the individual level with some high income individuals facing an effective tax rate of over 45%, while some pay as little as 10%. The proportion of tax filers, across the income distribution, who pay zero taxes decreased between 1992 and 2004.

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