Of the 150,272,157 tax returns filed for the 2016 tax year, 50,219,667—or 33.4 percent–were classified by the Internal Revenue Service as “nontaxable returns,” meaning the people who filed them paid $0 or less in income taxes, according to data published by the Statistics of Income Division of the IRS.
At the same time, 80 percent of all income taxes paid that year were paid by tax return filers who had adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 or more.
Table 2.3 in the Statistics of Income data released by the IRS lists the total number of all returns the IRS estimates it received in a tax year. It also breaks that number down by the number “taxable returns” and the number of “nontaxable returns.”
“A taxable return,” the IRS says, “is a return that has total income tax greater than $0.”
“A nontaxable return, on the other hand, could either have a zero or negative tax liability after accounting for all credits (including refundable credits),” says the IRS.