IRS Can’t Verify Obama's Claim That Bush Tax Cuts Go to Americans Making ‘Up to More Than a Billion’

By Fred Lucas | September 29, 2010 | 5:13 PM EDT

President Barack Obama wipes perspiration as he stands under the sun holding a discussion on the economy with neighborhood families in the backyard of a home in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( - President Barack Obama declared that extending the Bush tax cuts for all earners would mean giving tax cuts “to people who are making a million dollars, up to more than a billion dollars.”

However, the highest income category listed by the Internal Revenue Service in its published statistics on U.S. tax returns is “$10,000,000 or more” and the IRS will not say what the highest income reported on a single tax return was or if any tax return was submitted by a person who claimed an income of $1 billion or more.

Thus, there is no way to know if there is even a single American who fits President Obama’s description of a taxpayer “making … more than a billion dollars.” In 2008, which is the latest year of statistic published by the IRS, there were 13,480 tax returns filed with the IRS by people claiming an Adjusted Gross Income of $10 million or more.

On Tuesday, speaking in Albuquerque, N.M., Obama explained why he only wants to extend the Bush tax cuts--set to expire Dec. 31--for households earning less than $250,000 and individuals earning less than $200,000, and why he wants the tax rates to go up for people earning more than that.

The Republicans “number one economic priority is retaining $700 billion tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of the country--millionaires and billionaires mostly,” Obama said. “We’d have to borrow the $700 billion because we don’t have it. We’ve got these deficits and debt.

“So we’d have to borrow the $700 billion from China or the Saudis or whoever is buying our debt,” he said, “and then we’d pass off on average $100,000 check to people who are making a million dollars up to more than a billion dollars.”

The IRS does not, and will not, make public the amount earned by the U.S. taxpayer who filed the tax return claiming the greatest earnings in any given tax year, said IRS spokesman Anthony Burke.

“We wouldn’t produce that,” Burke told “That would not be something we would ever release. We would not do that.”

Asked specifically if the IRS had statistics indicating whether any taxpayers earn $1 billion annually, Burke said that is something the IRS has never published.

Looking into the matter further, Burke found that “the highest income breakout we have for individuals’ income in our stats is $10 million.”

IRS data indicates the average adjusted gross income for the nation’s top 400 taxpayers was $344.7 million in 2007, the last year for which that statistic is available. Of those taxpayers, 306 earned an average salary and wage of $29.4 million, average taxable interest of $27 million, and average dividends of $24.5 million. The greatest source of revenue for these top 400 taxpayers was capital gains from the sale of assets. The average earnings for these taxpayers from capital gains was $228 million in 2007.

The average earnings from capital gains for the top 400 American taxpayers has varied dramatically from year to year over the last seven years recorded in the IRS statistics. It hit a low of $64 million in 2002 and a high of $228 million in 2007.