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August 10, 2021

How much do you have to earn to be classified as "rich"?

There’s a hotly contested issue being fought over on Capitol Hill these days, and you’ll never guess what it’s about: money.

At the heart of the squabble lies tax cuts still lingering from the George Bush administration. As they stand, in essence, the richest of rich Americans are taxed similar to what you or I would pay in penalties, were we from south of the border. This is, in essence, not a responsible tax system.

So then in rides old Barry Obama on his horse named Equality and he wants to shake things up. Only, what changes does he make? How does one man tax the “rich” more severely from the rest when we’ve never really defined what “rich” is?

Certainly, this is one question too big for this space and an answer that’ll elude anyone that goes looking – what, exactly, is rich?1224072_money_

For some, it’s security. For others, it’s gobs of cash. For you, it might be family. Respect. Good health. Charity. Yada, yada, yada.

If you’re looking for more on the philosophical meanings of wealth, check out this MSN article from MP Dunleavey. Tons of good stuff in there.

Yet while we’re sure to never agree on a theoretical definition of “rich,” maybe we can at least do our best to narrow the financial fragments of the term down to a dollar sign standard or two.

Which leads us back to our friends in the States. By Barack Obama’s suggestion, Bush’s existing tax cuts should be altered around the benchmark of $200,000 per year. If he had his way, those who earn more than two hundred grand annually (or $250,000 per household) would be taxed at a higher rate that those who earn less than that figure.

A salary of $200,000 per year, then, is what Barack Obama and his administration classify as “rich.” Before, under Bush’s reign, “rich” meant you earned more than $375,000 per year.

Of course, Obama’s proposition has ruffled some feathers. The top tax bracket in the U.S. levies a 35 per cent charge on Americans’ per-year income, so then, if the tax system actually gets shuffled, every Yankee that earns between $172,001 ($172,000 is the second-highest existing tax bracket standard) and $374,999 annually would have their tax penalties jacked up to a place they’d never been before.

(While the Conservative opposition chastises Obama for such a move – it would hurt honest small business owners, they say, not the wealthy plutocrats that are the President’s main target – no one in Canada is likely to bat an eyelash. Thirty-five per cent as the highest national tax penalty is a joke: anyone who earns over $127,021 per year in Canada regularly pays more than 43 per cent in annual taxes. Nova Scotians who make more than that each year pay the highest income tax across the nation – 46.5 per cent total.)

In any case, the “is $200,000 per year ‘rich’?” argument gives us a good starting point for a debate.

If we have to boil it down to annual salary, what do you think you’d have to make each year to be classified as “rich”? $100,000? $200,000? More? Less? Tell us below.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...