Who Pays: A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States

Source: Meg Wiehe, Aidan Davis, Carl Davis, Matt Gardner, Lisa Christensen Gee, Dylan Grundman, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), October 2018

From the summary:
Who Pays: A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States (the sixth edition of the report) is the only distributional analysis of tax systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This comprehensive report assesses tax fairness by measuring effective state and local tax rates paid by all income groups. No two state tax systems are the same; this report provides detailed analyses of the features of every state tax code. It includes state-by-state profiles that provide baseline data to help lawmakers and the public understand how current tax policies affect taxpayers at all income levels.
The report includes these main findings:

– The vast majority of state and local tax systems are inequitable and upside-down, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families. The absence of a graduated personal income tax in many states and an overreliance on consumption taxes contribute to this longstanding problem.

– The lower one’s income, the higher one’s overall effective state and local tax rate. On average, the lowest-income 20 percent of taxpayers face a state and local tax rate more than 50 percent higher than the top 1 percent of households. The nationwide average effective state and local tax rate is 11.4 percent for the lowest-income 20 percent of individuals and families, 9.9 percent for the middle 20 percent, and 7.4 percent for the top 1 percent.

– Tax structures in 45 states exacerbate income inequality. Most state and local tax systems worsen income inequality by making incomes more unequal after collecting state and local taxes. Five states and the District of Columbia somewhat narrow the gap between lower- and middle- income taxpayers and upper-income taxpayers, making income slightly more equitable after collecting state and local taxes.

– In the 10 states with the most regressive tax structures (The Terrible 10), the lowest-income 20 percent pay up to six times as much of their income in taxes as their wealthy counterparts. Washington State is the most regressive, followed by Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Nevada, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

– Heavy reliance on sales and excise taxes are characteristics of the most regressive state tax systems. Six of the 10 most regressive states derive roughly half to two-thirds of their tax revenue from sales and excise taxes, compared to a national average of about one-third. Seven of these states do not levy a broad-based personal income tax while the remaining three have a personal income tax rate structure that is flat or virtually flat. A calculation of effective sales and excise tax rates finds that, on average, the lowest-income 20 percent pay 7.1 percent, the middle 20 percent pay 4.8 percent and the top 1 percent pay a comparatively meager 0.9 percent rate.

– A progressive graduated income tax is a characteristic of the least regressive state tax systems. States with the most equitable state and local tax systems derive, on average, more than one-third of their tax revenue from income taxes, which is above the national average of 27 percent. These states promote progressivity through the structure of their income taxes, including their rates (higher marginal rates for higher-income taxpayers), deductions, exemptions, and use of targeted refundable credits.

States commended as “low-tax” are often high-tax for low- and middle-income families. The 10 states with the highest taxes on the poor are Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Six of these are also among the “terrible ten” because they are not only high-tax for the poorest, they are also low-tax for their richest residents.

Related:
Data Available for Download
State-by-State Data and ITEP Tax Inequality Index Map