Tax rates

The IRS doesn't name the taxpayers it includes in its discussion of the top 400 earners, but it's safe to say that Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and one of the richest men in the country, is on it. (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg News)

Maybe it’s not all silver spoons and top hats for the fat cats of America: The 400 taxpayers with the highest adjusted gross incomes in the country are seeing their earnings slide while their taxes rise.

On average, each earned $202.4 million in 2009 as capital gains and interest income slumped, according to the latest data from the Internal Revenue Service.

That’s 25% less than the $270.5 million they made the year earlier and 45% lower than the $344.8-million peak set in 2007.

Overall, the group pulled in nearly $81 billion -- the lowest amount since 2004. Meanwhile, their effective tax rate went up to 19.9% -- the highest rate since 2002.

To make it into the top 400, earners had to pull in $77.4 million in 2009, compared to $109.7 million the year before and a record $138.8 million in 2007.

But that doesn’t exactly turn the Warren Buffetts of the country into sad sacks. The average federal income tax bill for the top 400 earners slid to nearly $41 million from nearly $49 million a year earlier.

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