Tax Center

The 10 worst states for taxes in 2014

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For upper middle income earners, high net-worth individuals, retirees, and certainly the “one percent” – where you live can make a huge difference in how much of your money you get to keep at the end of the year and how much you need to fork over to your state.

To help individuals and businesses make an informed choice, the Tax Foundation collects data on more than 100 tax provisions for each state and then ranks them to create its annual State Business Tax Climate Index. The 10 worst states on the list all levy complex, non-neutral taxes that favor some economic activities over others and have comparatively high individual and corporate tax rates.

The data are mixed as to whether a tough tax climate actually does push people and businesses to live in low-tax states. A report released last year by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that residents of states with high income tax were actually experiencing economic conditions that were as good as or better than those living in states without a personal income tax.

Plus, sometimes people are inclined to pay higher taxes to live in a certain location. New York, California and Maryland, for example, are all among the states that ranked worst for taxes, but they’re also hives of business activity, high salaries and employment. Meanwhile, families with children have historically been willing to pay higher property taxes in exchange for higher quality schools and other services.

New York
Top State Income Tax Rate: 8.82 percent
Sales tax: 4 percent
Property taxes per capita: $2,280

The Empire State takes the prize as the worst state for taxes, thanks to its high individual tax rate and relatively high sales tax. New York is in a virtual tie with neighboring New Jersey, though the former state gets the bottom spot because its individual income tax suffers from such high rates and narrow bases, according to the Tax Foundation. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the formation of a tax relief commission to look for ways to transform the state’s onerous tax code.

New Jersey
Top State Income Tax Rate: 8.97 percent
Sales tax: 7 percent
Property taxes per capita: $2,819

The Garden State scores poorly in almost every tax category, and it’s almost tied with New York for the dubious honor of being the worst state in the country for taxes. New Jersey’s per capita property tax is the most onerous in the country. The state has also scaled back a property tax relief program that provided rebates to homeowners struggling to pay taxes on their homestead.

California
Top State Income Tax Rate: 13.3 percent
Sales tax: 7.5 percent
Property tax per capita: $1,450

California has one of the highest income taxes in the country and imposes an alternative minimum tax on both individuals and corporations. The Golden State relies heavily on the income tax revenue generated by its richest residents. This year such revenues are expected to comprise two thirds of California’s general-fund reserves. Its 7.5 percent sales tax rate includes a mandatory statewide local tax of 1 percent.

Minnesota
Top State Income Tax Rate: 7.85 percent
Sales tax: 6.875 percent
Property tax per capita: $1,412

Minnesota dropped several places in the rankings this year, following changes to its tax code, including a retroactive individual income tax hike on earners making more than $150,000. The state’s top income tax rate leapt from 7.85 percent to 9.85 percent. The state also has a relatively high corporate income tax rate.

Rhode Island
Top State Income Tax Rate: 5.99 percent
Sales tax: 7 percent
Property tax per capita: $2,083

The Ocean State lands close to the bottom of the list because it ranks poorly on corporate taxes and property taxes. Rhode Island was named least tax-friendly state in the country for retirees by Kiplinger Magazine, thanks to its practice of taxing Social Security benefits, pension income, and almost all other sources of retirement income.

Vermont
Top State Income Tax Rate: 8.95 percent
Sales tax: 6 percent
Property tax per capita: $2,166

Vermont’s property taxes are the third worst in the country, with an effective property tax rate of 5.27 percent. The state is also on the bottom of the list thanks to a relatively high individual income tax rate, sales tax and corporate taxes.

North Carolina
Top State Income Tax Rate: 7.75 percent
Sales tax: 4.75 percent
Property tax per capita: $902

While the state ranks near the bottom right now, its position will likely change going forward. Starting this year, North Carolina will change its income tax policy from a graduated bracket system with a top rate of 7.75 percent, to a simpler structure with a flat rate of 5.8 percent in 2014 and 5.75 percent in 2015. That and other changes to corporate and estate tax policy will likely move the Tar Heel State into the top half of the rankings in 2015.

Wisconsin
Top State Income Tax Rate: 7.75 percent
Sales tax rate: 5 percent
Property tax per capita: $1,698

Wisconsin ranks poorly due, in part, to its relatively high income tax, which includes an AMT for individuals. However, since the ranking, the state has passed some reforms to make its tax code more favorable, including cutting the top individual income tax rate from 7.75 percent to 7.65 percent and eliminating one of its five income brackets. Governor Scott Walker has recently floated the idea of getting rid of the state’s income tax entirely.

Connecticut
Top State Income tax Rate: 6.7 percent
Sales tax rate: 6.35 percent
Property tax per capita: $2,522

The Constitution State’s property taxes are the second worst in the country, after New Jersey. The state also has relatively high sales and income tax rates. Its “Tax Freedom Day,” the day until taxpayers must work to have earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill, is May 13th, the second latest nationally.

Maryland
Top state income tax rate: 5.75 percent
Sales tax rate: 6 percent
Per capita property tax: $1,467

Maryland makes the 10th worst spot on the list because of its relatively high taxes across the board. The state is currently considering a proposal that would lower its corporate income tax rate in the next five years from its current 8.25 percent to 6 percent, which would put it in line with neighboring Virginia. It’s also looking into increasing the estate tax threshold from $1 million to $5.25 million.

 

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