Friday, August 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Low-tax PA?

An interesting U.S. map of what states pay in personal income tax suggests PA is among the lowest, but that's not the whole story.

Low-tax PA?

There's an interesting U.S. map offered by The Washington Post showing each state's personal income tax rate.

You can see it here.

It suggests that among states that have income taxes, Pennsylvania has the nation's lowest rate at 3.07 percent.

The map, courtesy of the mega-CPA firm O'Conner Davies, also shows six states have no income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas and Washington.

The Post offers a nice political tidbit to go along with the map. It notes that states won by President Obama in the last election have higher average income tax rates than states won by Mitt Romney.

(My guess is this is offered to ignite online comments.)

But the tax data alone really needs further comment.

For example, most states have a graduated income tax tied to, of course, individual incomes. In other words, the rate slides. Pennsylvania is one of few flat-rate states. In other words everyone pays the same rate regardless of income.

The Post map offers only the highest marginal rate for each state, which is the reason PA's rate seems so low.

And, of course, there are many other state and local taxes in addition to state income tax.

Perhaps a fairer measure of state taxes is a ranking of the per capita tax burden created by all state and local taxes. When this measurement is used -- as it is by the respected Tax Foundation -- PA ranks 14th among states.

(To see the per capita burden and ranking look here and scroll down to Table 2.)

I only point this out to make the point that maps and charts about who pays what are rarely as simple as they seem.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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