By Ryan J. Donmoyer (Bloomberg) — The average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2 percent through the first six years of the Bush administration and their average income doubled to $263.3 million, new IRS data show.

The 17.2 percent tax rate in 2006 was the lowest since the IRS began tracking the 400 largest taxpayers in 1992, although the richest 400 Americans paid more tax on an inflation-adjusted basis than any year since 2000.

The drop from 2001’s tax rate of 22.9 percent was due largely to ex-President George W. Bush’s push to cut tax rates on most capital gains to 15 percent in 2003.

Capital gains made up 63 percent of the richest 400 Americans’ adjusted gross income in 2006, or a combined $66.1 billion, according to the data. In all, the 400 wealthiest Americans reported a combined $105.3 billion of adjusted gross income in 2006, the most recent year for which the IRS has data.

“The big explosion in income for this group is clearly on the capital gains side, although there are also sharp increases in dividend and interest income,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington.

In addition, “they are realizing more of their gains due to the lower tax rate,” Baker said.

The data show that the population of the top 400 income- earners has fluctuated over the 15 years the agency has tracked it, according to an analysis by the Washington-based Tax Foundation, a research group. Some 3,305 different taxpayers have been included at least once on the list, the Tax Foundation said. Only 27 percent of those taxpayers have appeared more than once on the list, and only about 15 percent have been on it more than twice.

This no accident, no fluke of luck, no great investment strategy.  This was done by design by the GOP to the detriment of the middle class.

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