2015

Delaware: An Onshore Tax Haven

When thinking of tax havens, one generally pictures notorious zero-tax Caribbean islands like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. However, we can also find a tax haven a lot closer to home in the state of Delaware - a choice location for U.S. business formation. A loophole in Delaware's tax code is responsible for the loss of billions of dollars in revenue in other U.S. states, and its lack of incorporation transparency makes it a magnet for people looking to create anonymous shell companies, which individuals and corporations can use to evade an inestimable amount in federal and foreign taxes. The Internal Revenue Service estimated a total tax gap of about $450 billion with $376 billion of it due to filers underreporting income in 2006 (the most recent tax year for which this data is available).[i] While it is impossible to know how much underreported income is hidden in Delaware shell companies, the First State's ability to attract the formation of anonymous companies suggests that it could rival the amount of income hidden in more well-known offshore tax havens.

A Primer on State Rainy Day Funds

Read the Report in PDF Form An individual savings account can serve as an emergency reserve – a financial cushion to sustain yourself in the event of an emergency. “Rainy day” funds are much like individual saving accounts, but on...

State Tax Codes As Poverty Fighting Tools

The U.S. Census Bureau released data in September showing that the share of Americans living in poverty remains high. In 2014, the national poverty rate was 14.8 percent - statistically unchanged from the previous year. However, the poverty rate remains 2.3 percentage points higher than it was in 2007, before the Great Recession, indicating that recent economic gains have not yet reached all households and that there is much room for improvement. The 2014 measure translates to more than 46.7 million - more than 1 in 7 - Americans living in poverty. Most state poverty rates also held steady between 2013 and 2014 though twelve states experienced a decline.

Rewarding Work Through State Earned Income Tax Credits

Despite some economic gains in recent years, the number of Americans living in poverty has held steady over the past four years. At the same time, wages for working families have remained stagnant and more than half of the jobs created by the economic recovery since 2010 were low-paying, mostly in the food services, retail, and employment services industries. Our country's growing class of low-wage workers often faces a dual challenge as they struggle to make ends meet. First, wages are too low and growing too slowly - despite recent productivity gains - to keep up with the rising cost of food, housing, child care, and other household expenses. At the same time, the poor are often saddled with highly regressive state and local taxes, making it even harder for low-wage workers to move out of poverty and achieve meaningful economic security. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is designed to help low-wage workers meet both those challenges.

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

Annual data from the U.S. Census Bureau appear to lend support to Tennessee's reputation as a "low tax state," ranking it 50th 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 Tennessee's tax system very differently. In particular, the poorest 20 percent of Tennessee residents pay significantly more of their income (10.9 percent) in state and local taxes than any other group in the state. For low-income families, Tennessee is far from being a low tax state.2 In fact, only thirteen states tax their poorest residents more heavily than Tennessee.

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

Annual data from the U.S. Census Bureau appear to lend support to South Dakota's reputation as a "low tax state," ranking it 51st nationally in taxes collected as a share of personal income, the lowest overall tax state.1 But focusing on the state's overall tax revenues has led many observers to overlook the fact that different taxpayers experience South Dakota's tax system very differently. In particular, the poorest 20 percent of South Dakota residents pay significantly more of their income (11.3 percent) in state and local taxes than any other group in the state. For low-income families, South Dakota is far from being a low tax state.2 In fact, only eleven states tax their poorest residents more heavily than South Dakota.

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

Annual data from the U.S. Census Bureau appear to lend support to Washington's reputation as a "low tax state," ranking it 36th 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 Washington's tax system very differently. In particular, the poorest 20 percent of Washington residents pay significantly more of their income (16.8 percent) in state and local taxes than any other group in the state. For low-income families, Washington is far from being a low tax state.2 In fact, Washington is the highest tax state in the country for poor people.

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

Annual data from the U.S. Census Bureau appear to lend support to Florida's reputation as a "low tax state," ranking it 48th 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 (12.9 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 three states tax their poorest residents more heavily than Florida.

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

Annual data from the U.S. Census Bureau appear to lend support to Texas' reputation as a "low tax state," ranking it 39th 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 Texas' tax system very differently. In particular, the poorest 20 percent of Texans pay significantly more of their income (12.5 percent) in state and local taxes than any other group in the state. 2 For low-income families, Texas is far from being a low tax state. In fact, only six states tax their poorest residents more heavily than Texas.

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

Annual data from the U.S. Census Bureau appears to lend support to Arizona's reputation as a "low tax state," ranking it 37th 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 (12.5 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.

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

Lawmakers in many states have enacted "sales tax holidays" (at least 17 states will hold them in 2015), to provide a temporary break on paying the tax on purchases of clothing, computers and other items. While these holidays may seem to lessen the regressive impacts of the sales tax, their benefits are minimal. This policy brief examines the many problems associated with sales tax holidays and concludes that they have more political than policy benefits.

Pay-Per-Mile Tax is Only a Partial Fix

Read this report in PDF form Introduction For years, academics and transportation experts have been discussing the possibility of taxing drivers for each mile they travel on the nation’s roads.  This “vehicle miles traveled tax” (VMT tax) could either supplement...

Testimony: Adding Sustainability to the Highway Trust Fund

The federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is the single most important mechanism for funding maintenance and improvements to the nation's transportation infrastructure. Absent Congressional action, however, the HTF will face insolvency at the end of July. Unfortunately, despite the critical importance of infrastructure to the U.S. economy, the condition of the HTF has been allowed to deteriorate to the point that imminent insolvency has become entirely normal.

Issues with Taxing Marijuana at the State Level

Read as a PDF. Table of Contents Introduction Why Tax Marijuana? Designing a State Tax on Marijuana How Much Revenue Would Marijuana Legalization Generate for States Factors that Could Negatively Impact Marijuana Revenue Factors that Could Positively Impact Marijuana...

Undocumented Immigrants' State & Local Tax Contributions

Read as a PDF. (Includes Full Appendix of State-by-State Data) Report Landing Page In the public debates over federal immigration reform, sufficient and accurate information about the tax contributions of undocumented immigrants is often lacking. The reality is the 11.4 million...

State Tax Preferences for Elderly Taxpayers

State governments provide a wide array of tax breaks for their elderly residents. Almost every state that levies an income tax now allows some form of income tax exemption or credit for citizens over age 65 that is unavailable to non-elderly taxpayers. And most states provide special property tax breaks to the elderly. Unfortunately, too many of these breaks are poorly-targeted, unsustainable, and unfair. This policy brief surveys federal and state approaches to reducing taxes for older adults and suggests options for designing less costly and better targeted tax breaks for elderly taxpayers.

Most Americans Live in States with Variable-Rate Gas Taxes

The federal government and many states are seeing shortfalls in their transportation budgets in part because the gasoline taxes they use to generate those funds are poorly designed. Thirty-one states and the federal government levy "fixed-rate" gas taxes where the tax rate does not change even as the cost of infrastructure materials inevitably increases over time. The federal government's 18.4 cent gas tax, for example, has not increased in over 22 years. And twenty states have gone a decade or more without a gas tax increase.

How Long Has it Been Since Your State Raised Its Gas Tax?

An updated version of this report has been published with data through January 1, 2017. Read the report in PDF form. Many states’ transportation budgets are in disarray, in part because they are trying to cover the rising cost of asphalt, machinery,...

Grocery Tax Exemption Is No Improvement for Idaho

Read as a PDF. A proposal to eliminate Idaho’s Grocery Credit Refund and create a sales tax exemption for all grocery purchases would reduce state revenues by roughly $34 million each year while primarily benefiting higher-income taxpayers, tourists and other...

Who Pays? 5th Edition

Who Pays?, A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All Fifty States (the fifth edition of the report), assesses the fairness of state and local tax systems by measuring the state and local taxes that will be paid in...