2013

Personal Income Tax Reform: Improving the Fairness of Taxes in the District of Columbia

DC's tax system is markedly regressive. This is driven largely by the regressive impact of the city's sales, excise, and property taxes. The personal income tax is the only effective tool that DC has available for offsetting this regressivity. In the comments below I discuss four options for fine-tuning DC's income tax to lessen its impact on moderate- and middle-income taxpayers. I also describe four options for funding those tax cuts with policies that would increase upper-income taxpayers' effective tax rates to be more in line with those paid by their less affluent neighbors.

Paying for Education Finance Reform in Colorado

As this report shows, this change would somewhat reduce the steep regressivity of Colorado's overall tax system. In other words, taxpayers across all income levels would pay a more equal share of their income if Amendment 66 is approved, in large part because most of the revenue raised by the amendment would come from the wealthiest 20 percent of Colorado residents.

A Federal Gas Tax for the Future

Gas tax revenues are on an unsustainable course. Over the last five years, Congress has transferred more than $53 billion from the general fund to the transportation fund in order to compensate for lagging gas tax revenues. By 2015, the transportation fund will be insolvent unless an additional $15 billion transfer is made. Larger transfers will be needed in subsequent years.

Low Tax for Who?

Annual state and local finance data from the Census Bureau are often used to rank states as "low" or "high" tax states based on taxes collected as a share of state personal income. But focusing on a state's overall tax revenues overlooks the fact that taxpayers experience tax systems very differently. In particular, the poorest 20 percent of taxpayers pay a greater share of their income in state and local taxes than any other income group in all but 10 states (including DC). And, in every state, low- income taxpayers pay more as a share of income than the wealthiest top 1 percent of taxpayers. Arizona, Florida, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington are six states touted as "low tax" that have especially high taxes on poor residents. To learn more about how low tax states overall can be high tax states for families living in poverty, read the state briefs below.

State Tax Codes As Poverty Fighting Tools

New Census Bureau data released this month show that the share of Americans living in poverty remains high, despite other signs of economic recovery. The national 2012 poverty rate of 15 percent is essentially unchanged since 2010 , but still 2.5 percentage points higher than pre-recession levels. This means that in 2012, 46.5 million, or about 1 in 6 Americans, lived in poverty.1 The poverty rate in most states also held steady with five states experiencing an increase in either the number or share of residents living in poverty while only two states saw a decline.2

Washington is a "Low Tax State" Overall, But Not for Families Living in Poverty

Read the Report in PDF Form See all "Low Tax for Who?" states New data from the Census Bureau appear to lend support to Washington’s reputation as a “low tax state,” ranking it 36th nationally in taxes collected as a...

Texas is a "Low Tax State" Overall, But Not for Families Living in Poverty

Read the Report in PDF Form See all "Low Tax for Who?" states New data from the Census Bureau appear to lend support to Texas’ reputation as a “low tax state,” ranking it 40th nationally in taxes collected as a...

Tennessee is a "Low Tax State" Overall, But Not for Families Living in Poverty

Read the Report in PDF Form See all "Low Tax for Who?" states New data from the Census Bureau appear to lend support to Tennessee’s reputation as a “low tax state,” ranking it 49th nationally in taxes collected as a...

South Dakota is a "Low Tax State" Overall, But Not for Families Living in Poverty

Read the Report in PDF Form See all "Low Tax for Who?" states New data from the Census Bureau lend support to South Dakota’s reputation as a “low tax state,” ranking it 50th nationally in taxes collected as a share...

Florida is a "Low Tax State" Overall, But Not for Families Living in Poverty

New data from the Census Bureau appear to lend support to Florida's reputation as a "low tax state," ranking it 45th nationally in taxes collected as a share of personal income.1 But focusing on the state's overall tax revenues has led many observers to overlook the fact that different taxpayers experience Florida's tax system very differently. In particular, the poorest 20 percent of Florida residents pay significantly more of their income (13.2 percent) in state and local taxes than any other group in the state. For low-income families, Florida is far from being a low tax state.2 In fact, only two states tax their poorest residents more heavily than Florida.

Arizona is a "Low Tax State" Overall, But Not for Families Living in Poverty

New data from the Census Bureau appear to lend support to Arizona's reputation as a "low tax state," ranking it 35th nationally in taxes collected as a share of personal income.1 But focusing on the state's overall tax revenues has led many observers to overlook the fact that different taxpayers experience Arizona's tax system very differently. In particular, the poorest 20 percent of Arizona residents pay significantly more of their income (12.9 percent) in state and local taxes than any other group in the state.2 For low-income families, Arizona is far from being a low tax state. In fact, only four states tax their poorest residents more heavily than Arizona.

A Closer Look at TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights)

Colorado has become infamous for its Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, a constitutional amendment restricting growth in revenue collections to an arbitrary "population-plus-inflation" formula. Although TABOR has had significant negative effects on Colorado's finances, similar proposals have surfaced in at least 30 states over the past decade. None of these proposals were approved, and in five states they were placed directly on a state-wide ballot where they were rejected by voters. Even in Colorado itself, citizens voted to suspend TABOR for five years in an effort to allow the s

Tax Expenditure Reports: A Vital Tool with Room for Improvement

State and local tax codes include a huge array of special tax breaks designed to accomplish almost every goal imaginable: from encouraging homeownership and scientific research, to building radioactive fallout shelters and caring for "exceptional" trees. Despite being embedded in the tax code, these programs are typically enacted with tax policy issues like fairness, efficiency, and sustainability only as secondary considerations. Accordingly, these programs have long been called "tax expenditures." They are essentially government spending programs that happen to be housed in the tax code for ease of administration, political expedience, or both.

Tax Incentives: Costly for States, Drag on the Nation

Tax incentives are intended to spur economic growth that would not have otherwise occurred. More specifically, these narrowly targeted tax breaks are usually offered in an attempt to convince businesses to relocate, hire, and/or invest within a state's borders.

Sales Tax Holidays: An Ineffective Alternative to Real Sales Tax Reform

Sales taxes are an important revenue source, comprising close to half of all state revenues in 2012. But sales taxes are also inherently regressive because the lower a family's income, the more of its income the family must spend on things subject to the tax.

Undocumented Immigrants' State and Local Tax Contributions

In the public debates over federal immigration reform, much has been made of the argument that undocumented immigrants would be a drain on federal, state and local government resources if granted legal status under reform. But it is also true that the 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are already taxpayers, and that their local, state and federal tax contributions would increase under reform.

Testimony: Evaluating the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Reforms in DC's Bill 20-199

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Matt Gardner. I am the Executive Director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a Washington-DC-based nonprofit research group. ITEP's research focuses on federal and state tax policy with an emphasis on sustainability and fairness in the tax laws.

Don't Blame the Gas Tax for High Gas Prices

American consumers are keenly aware of the price of gasoline, but uninformed about what drives that price. When asked about the federal gas tax, for example, six in ten Americans said the tax rate goes up every year. In reality, the federal gas tax hasn't budged from its 18.4 cent rate in almost twenty years, and roughly half the states haven't seen their gas tax rates change in a decade or more.

5% Cut in Indiana's Income Tax is Stacked in Favor of the Wealthy

Indiana Governor Mike Pence and the state's legislative leaders recently announced a budget agreement that, among other things, phases the state's flat personal income tax rate down from 3.4 percent to 3.23 percent by 2017.

Indiana Senate's Income Tax Cut: Just as Lopsided as the Governor's

The Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved a budget cutting the state's personal income tax rate from 3.4 percent to 3.3 percent beginning in 2015. Although this proposal costs less than one-third the amount of Governor Pence's preferred cut (which would take the rate down to 3.06 percent), it would still reduce state revenues by roughly $150 million each year.

Kansas House and Senate Proposals Set the Stage for Tax Hikes on Poor and Middle-Income Families

Earlier this year, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback proposed another round of personal income tax cuts (on top of those he signed into law last year).1 The House and Senate each responded with their own tax cut plans and are expected to reconcile their differences this week. To date, much attention has been given to the major difference between the House and Senate plans -- the Senate bill includes permanently preserving a sales tax rate hike that was set to expire this summer while the House plan would allow the rate hike to expire. However, the long term impact of either plan should be of paramount concern to all Kansans because both plans eventually lead to the elimination of the state's personal income tax.

Governor Jindal's Tax Plan Would Increase Taxes on Poorest 60 Percent of Louisianans

In recent weeks, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has released many details of the tax plan he first sketched out in January. The Governor proposes a revenue-neutral "tax swap" that would repeal all state income taxes and increase the state's sales tax among other changes. A new ITEP analysis of the Governor's plan shows that, if fully implemented in 2013, the plan would increase taxes on the poorest sixty percent of Louisianans overall, while providing large tax cuts for the best-off Louisiana taxpayers.

States with "High Rate" Income Taxes are Still Outperforming No-Tax States

Lawmakers in about a dozen states are giving serious consideration to either cutting or eliminating their state personal income taxes. In each case, these proposals are being touted as a way to boost economic growth.

Laffer's New Job Growth Factoid is All Rhetoric and No Substance

A new talking point printed on the opinion page of The Wall Street Journal is proving irresistible to state lawmakers looking for an excuse to reduce or eliminate their states' income taxes: A new analysis by economist Art Laffer for the American Legislative Exchange Council finds that, from 2002 to 2012, 62% of the three million net new jobs in America were created in the nine states without an income tax, though these states account for only about 20% of the national population.

IDACorp-- Biggest Winner Under Property Tax Plan-- Pays Nothing in State Income Taxes

Idaho Governor Butch Otter and the state legislature are seriously considering repealing the personal property tax on business equipment. The governor claims that repealing the tax would help the state's economy, but says that he is "painfully aware" that repeal would dramatically cut into the revenues that many local governments depend on to provide public services. 1 The tax generates $141 million in revenue every year for cities, counties, and public schools. As a result, the Governor says that he "can't predict" whether lawmakers will be able to reach agreement on repealing the tax.

Kansas Governor's New Plan Increases Taxes on Poor Yet Slashes Revenue by $340 Million

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback proposed, for the second straight year, major tax changes during his State of the State speech. These new changes include lowering the tax rates to 1.9 and 3.5 percent, eliminating itemized deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes paid, and raising the sales tax.

Who Pays? (Fourth Edition)

Major tax overhauls are on the agenda in a record number of states, and “Who Pays?” documents in state-by-state detail the precise distribution of state income taxes, sales and excise taxes and property taxes paid by each income group as...

More Inaccuracies, Bigger Omissions: Arthur Laffer's Newest Study of Income Tax Repeal Falls Short

Arthur Laffer's consulting firm--Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics (ALME)--has released a report purporting to show that North Carolina could usher in an economic boom if it repeals its personal and corporate income taxes and replaces them primarily with a much larger sales tax. Prepared for the Civitas Institute, "More Jobs, Bigger Paychecks" relies on an economic analysis that is fundamentally flawed to the point of making it entirely useless.

Proposal to Eliminate Income Taxes Amounts to a Tax Increase on Bottom 80 Percent of Louisianans

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said that he supports the elimination of the state's personal and corporate income taxes. In fiscal year 2012, Louisiana collected nearly $3 billion in revenues from its personal and corporate income taxes.