Not all millionaires are the same: wealth vs. income

Roll of $100 billsThe national Tax Foundation got into a bit of a blogging bout with Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office Tuesday over what the foundation saw as misuse of its tax figures.

But another problem with the blog by public affairs director Rick Abbruzzese was its use of figures about millionaires, saying Maryland has “the highest percentage of millionaire households in the United States” and the figure has gone up during the O’Malley administration.

That statement is based on figures rom Phoenix Marketing International, an annual study by a New York firm that looks at affluent markets. The study is consistently misused by people when they are talking about taxing Maryland millionaires.

What Phoenix measures is wealth and assets, not income and earnings. When the debate is about raising taxes on millionaires, as the legislature did again in May, the question is about taxpayers who have incomes of $1 million or more, not people who have assets of $1 million or more, which is what Phoenix measures. These are not just any assets, such as real estate and employer-controlled retirement plans, but “investable assets” or liquid wealth. This liquid wealth can include IRAs and other assets – anything that can be moved around by the owner.

According to Phoenix estimates – yes, it’s an estimate – Maryland had 157,776 households with liquid wealth of $1 million in 2011, up from 132,254 in 2006. That 2011 figure is 7.22% of the households, now the highest proportion in the nation, slightly edging out Hawaii.

But you don’t need to make $1 million a year to become this kind of millionaire. Many prudent people with household incomes of $100,000 a year or even less can put aside enough money over 40 years of employment to have amassed $1 million in investable assets by their 60s.

It is a lot more rare to have $1 million or more in annual income, and we do know that those numbers of Marylanders have declined since 2007 when they peaked at 8,652. The first millionaires’ tax went into effect the following year, and the number of millionaires declined by 27% to 6,290. That was likely due more to the beginning of the Great Recession than the tax rate, but we can’t really be sure that none of them moved out of state.

During the previous recession in 2001, we do know that the number of taxpayers with million dollar incomes declined for two straight years.

All these numbers are from the Personal Statistics of Income Reports from the Comptroller’s Office.

The official numbers for the last three years are not yet available, but it does appear that the number of Marylanders with million-dollar incomes has stayed below the peak in 2007.

As to the Tax Foundation’s beef with O’Malley’s office, you can read about it here.

They conclude, “Maryland’s tax structure is not competitive generally, and getting worse.”

–Len Lazarick

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Gima1974

    Hey, Gov !!!! Real people live in MD ! ( The operative word is ” live ” !)

         we breathe, we bleed, we eat, we work, we give, we do everything one considers conducive to “life ” !!!

    Your policies have placed a huge burden upon your constituents !  Do you Hate us ????

  2. Taylortok

    i believe it was the clinton gore admin that defined millionaires as those who make 250,000 a year…. four years making a million… with that logic… 100,000 in ten… 50,000 in twenty… 25,000 for those working forty years… we are all millionaires now.

  3. Gordon

    I agree with the distinction you draw between Millionaires and Incomes of $1 million or more per annum. It seems to me that the misunderstanding for most is about the tax. People are pretty clear on that a millionaire is literally someone with $1 million. What they don’t understand is that the so-called “Millionaires’ Tax” applies only to incomes over $1 million in a given tax year. Also poorly understood is that the “Millionaires’ rate” in these taxes is a marginal rate that applies only to the amount of income over the $1 million threshold. Polls consistently show when these facts are well understood, there is overwhelming support for a “Millionaires’ Tax”. Thanks for doing your part to educate them.

  4. abby_adams

    Given the current taxing policies in MD under the spendthrift Dems, it isn’t only the affluent who are leaving! When the overall taxing becomes too much for the “thousand-aires”  they too will take a serious look at staying in MD. What the powers in DC & Annapolis don’t get is the cumulative effect of federal, state & local taxes, as well as fees & tolls mixed with the devaluation of the dollar. If I can get more bang for my buck elsewhere, then why stay in MD?

    • Dale McNamee

       I agree with you Abby ! What’s also happening in MD is that as millionaires & thousand-aires leave, they are replaced by people who are poorer, like illegal immigrants ( O’Malley’s “new Americans” ), thus reducing tax revenues and increasing costs and reducing the quality of life for everyone…

      Since they ( the “powers” that reside in Annapolis & DC ) live in a fantasy world where they are not affected by the consequences of their spending & taxing decisions ( i.e. being re-elected time and time again ), this will continue…

  5. Bkedgars

    Figures do tend to lie and Liars always figure. The point remains, whether you have a net worth of 1 million or an income of 1 million or more you have the ability to vote with your feet and bank account. That is what is occurring  and will continue to occur when over tax the wealthy.
    New business growth in MD is nothing to brag about either.


  1. SPEAK OUT: Are Taxes Driving Out Maryland’s Millionaires? | Bethesda MD DIRECTV Service - [...] The Maryland Reporter wrote today, however, that Pheonix measures those with assets of $1 million or more, not incomes…

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