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To visit America’s richest zip code, you’ll first need a boat

Residents of Fisher Island made $2.5 million on average in 2015, that’s $1 million more than the second-place spot, held by zip code 94027 in Silicon Valley.

business Updated: Apr 10, 2018 18:20 IST
Ferry boats from Fisher Island are seen navigating Government Cut near Downtown Miami, which can be seen in the background.
Ferry boats from Fisher Island are seen navigating Government Cut near Downtown Miami, which can be seen in the background.(Mark Elias/Bloomberg)

The richest zip code in America is just as exclusive and elite as the people who live there. Fisher Island, located just off the coast of Miami, is accessible only by ferry or water taxi and is a haven for the world’s richest.

The 216-acre island has diverse residents, representing over 50 nationalities and professions ranging from professional athletes and supermodels to executives and lawyers.

The average income in Fisher Island, zip code 33109, was $2.5 million in 2015, according to a Bloomberg analysis of 2015 Internal Revenue Service data. That’s $1 million more than the second-place spot, held by zip code 94027 in Silicon Valley, also known as the City of Atherton on the San Francisco Peninsula. The area’s neighbors include Stanford University and Menlo Park, home to Facebook and various tech companies. While the IRS data only provide the averages of tax returns, which can be skewed by outliers, Fisher Island is the only zip code in the Bloomberg analysis where more than half of all tax returns showed an income of over $200,000.

To no one’s surprise, neighbourhoods in California and the New York tri-state area comprise a majority of the top 20 richest US zip codes. States with favorable tax structures like Florida and Wyoming are drawing the wealthy, too.

Two other zip codes in Florida -- Palm Beach (home of President Trump’s private club) and Naples -- made the top 20. Suburbs of Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston also landed in the highest spots.

Tax write-offs

With high incomes come large tax write-offs. Fisher Island had an average of $448,100 in itemized deductions in 2015, according to IRS data.

For many high-net-worth individuals, charitable contributions make up the biggest share of tax deductions, according to Joseph Falanga, managing director of UHY Advisors, an accounting firm in New York.

The zip code that took the most advantage of tax deductions in 2015 was 94301 in Palo Alto, California, where the average deduction was $491,600. Fisher Island had smaller average deductions relative to its income size than other zip codes and that’s likely because Florida has no income tax, so its residents can’t take deductions from that category. On the other hand, California has a top marginal income tax rate of 13.3%, the highest in the country.

But deductions for the very wealthy could look a lot different this year because of the new tax cut legislation, according to Falanga.

Deductions for state and local income tax have been curtailed to a maximum of $10,000. Before the new legislation, these deductions were unlimited. Limits on charitable contribution deductions have increased to 60% of gross income from 50%. That is just for cash contributions and does not include foundations, stocks, or artwork, which have different hurdles, said Falanga.

Falanga’s clients include ultra-high-net-worth individuals and high-income people. He said he doesn’t know how the recent tax legislation will affect them.

“I haven’t seen them change, but they have been curious about what’s going on,” Falanga said. “And to a certain extent, some of them will be paying more.”

Will it change their lifestyle? Falanga doesn’t think so.