More money, more (tax) problems.
Or at the very least, the more money you make, the higher your tax burden will be come Tax Day. Right?
As we all know, even that statement takes some qualifying. Even if Joe Schmo of California makes $100,000 a year and Jane Schmo (Joe’s distant cousin) of California makes the same amount, their tax burdens will vary.
While they may owe the same total on their federal taxes, their states have wildly different income tax rates.
And this makes all the difference. In fact, depending on your income, you may end up with a difference of thousands of dollars each year. Seriously, thousands! Your decision to live in California over Alaska or to headquarter your business on one side of a state divide over another can have a huge impact on your finances over the course of your lifetime.
While that alone might not make you eager to pack up and move to greener pastures, when you pair that difference that with a mix of other factors—cost of living, job opportunities, property taxes, and more—you might be surprised to find yourself considering a move.
It may seem obvious, but this tax tip is commonly overlooked: How much you owe your state and local municipalities plays a much bigger role in what you pay each year in taxes—not what you owe the IRS.
So, do you live in a high-tax state?
First, let’s go over some of the state and local taxes you should keep in mind when comparing tax obligations. Next, we’ll give you a complete rundown of the current (2019) state income tax tables, so you can see where your state falls.
Just about anything you can imagine comes with some sort of a tax. Did you make money this year? Tax. Did you buy a coffee at a restaurant? Tax. Did you own property? Tax.
While all these taxes certainly make a portion of taxpayers cringe, they’re the reality in the U.S.—and they can play a huge role in how much of your money you keep each year.
Here are the major tax types that vary from state to state—and even from city to city.
This is probably the most prominent tax people discuss, so we won’t bore you with the details. However, your state income tax can play a huge role in how much you take home each year.
At a core level, income taxes function as a tax on any money you have accrued over time—whether that may be from labor or from investments. Other taxes, such as estate taxes, capital gains taxes, and gift taxes all fall under this umbrella. Not only are you taxed by the federal government, but also by your state government—and your obligation can vary wildly.
Property taxes are another well-known tax type, and they essentially work by taxing you based on the value of your property.
These taxes usually vary based on your local government, and might go toward a local school district. But because they’re based on the value of your property, they can change if property values go up or down in your area. Houses and land aren’t the only things that might carry a property tax; automobiles, airplanes, and even boats may do the same.
Sales taxes are another type of state and local tax that can play a big impact on how much money you keep in your pocket.
These taxes are imposed on all sorts of things, from gas to car rentals. You will see a sales tax on that Big Mac you buy at McDonald’s, and you may also see some hefty taxes on your monthly cell phone bill. Other taxes, like sin taxes and luxury taxes, are imposed on things like cigarettes or expensive cars. (We’ll let you figure out which is applied to which.)
Look, every single one of those taxes we listed above varies from state to state, and from one town to another. Some states are known for their high sales taxes, while others are known for having no income tax. Some states are tax-friendly to businesses, while certain cities have made recent headlines for imposing hefty taxes on large sizes of sodas.
We can’t get into the nitty-gritty on every single tax in every single state and city, because it would take so long that by the time we finished it would already be outdated!
With that said, here’s a list of state individual income tax collections per capita, sorted from highest to lowest (according to the experts at the Tax Foundation).
What’s so interesting to us about looking at this list is that it hardly tells the whole story. Your local property taxes, your sales taxes, and even corporate taxes all play a big role in your overall tax burden, whether you’re paying them each year at tax time or you’re paying them at the cash register.
Do we expect you to pick up and leave town because of any of these rates? Of course not! However, we do hope you’ve taken away some small nuggets that allow you to think about taxes beyond your federal tax return. After all, it may just help you save a little money down the road.
Sign up for our newsletter and be the first to find out when exciting IRS news happens. Yes, exciting. We're really into taxes.