Best States for Your Wallet

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By WalletHub, Special for USDR.



Economic mobility – that is, our ability to climb the proverbial ladder – has a strong correlation to where we live.  Children from Seattle whose families are in the 25thpercentile in terms of income, for example, end up at roughly the same economic stature as kids from the median family in Atlanta.



Why?  State and local taxes.  At least that’s what a group of Harvard and Berkeley researchers collaborating on The Equality of Opportunity Project have to say.  They “found a significant correlation between both measures of mobility and local tax rates.”



Want to know which states have the most and least burdensome taxes?



WalletHub analyzed how state and local tax rates compare to the national median in the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.  We compared eight different types of taxation in order to determine:  1) Which states have the highest and lowest tax rates; 2) how those rates compare to the national median; 3) which states offer the most value in terms of low taxation and high cost-of-living adjusted income levels.



Our findings as well as information about the methodology we used to conduct this report can be found below.



Complete Rankings



Rank State Avg. Annual State & Local Taxes % Difference from National Avg. Adj. Rank (based on Cost of Living Index)
1 Wyoming $2365 -66% 1
2 Alaska $2791 -60% 4
3 Nevada $3370 -52% 2
4 Florida $3648 -48% 3
5 South Dakota $3766 -46% 5
6 Washington $3823 -45% 6
7 Texas $5193 -25% 7
8 Delaware $5195 -25% 12
9 North Dakota $5588 -20% 13
10 Colorado $5674 -18% 14
11 New Mexico $5822 -16% 8
12 Alabama $5846 -16% 9
13 Arizona $6057 -13% 18
14 Utah $6069 -13% 10
15 Mississippi $6210 -11% 11
16 Indiana $6358 -9% 15
17 Louisiana $6373 -8% 16
18 West Virginia $6598 -5% 19
19 Montana $6641 -5% 20
20 Oklahoma $6795 -2% 17
21 Massachusetts $6884 -1% 35
22 Rhode Island $6905 -1% 40
23 South Carolina $7070 +2% 25
24 Georgia $7201 +3% 22
25 Missouri $7220 +4% 23
26 Tennessee $7252 +4% 21
27 Virginia $7333 +5% 29
28 New Hampshire $7419 +6% 41
29 Hawaii $7427 +7% 48
30 Arkansas $7455 +7% 26
31 Kentucky $7472 +7% 24
32 Ohio $7604 +9% 28
33 Kansas $7695 +11% 30
34 North Carolina $7705 +11% 31
35 Idaho $7776 +12% 27
36 Michigan $7867 +13% 32
37 District of Columbia $8034 +15% 46
38 Minnesota $8261 +19% 36
39 Pennsylvania $8344 +20% 34
40 Oregon $8416 +21% 42
41 Maryland $8571 +23% 44
42 Maine $8622 +24% 43
43 Iowa $8788 +27% 33
44 New Jersey $8830 +27% 47
45 Vermont $8838 +27% 45
46 Wisconsin $8975 +29% 39
47 Illinois $9006 +29% 38
48 Connecticut $9099 +31% 49
49 Nebraska $9450 +36% 37
50 California $9509 +37% 50
51 New York $9718 +40% 51



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Red States vs. Blue States

Red State Taxes vs Blue State Taxes

Ask the Experts:  Best Tax Advice

Mistakes are common come tax season.  They’re expensive too.  So, in order to help people avoid costly tax prep errors, we asked tax experts from around the country what the most common mistakes are as well as how we can correct them.  You can check out their responses below.



Annette Nellen

“One mistake is not paying attention to all that is on your tax return and related documents. Many people just look at the line that says amount owed or refund, thinking that is their federal tax liability. They should look at the total tax line of their Form 1040 (line 61) to see their total tax. They should also look at their W-2 wage forms to see what additional taxes they paid for FICA and Medicare (boxes 4 and 6). The FICA and Medicare tax was matched by the employer, but in effect paid by the worker in the form of lower wages.




Take all of these federal income and payroll taxes and divide it by your taxable income to find your average tax rate. We often hear news stories about people with less than $50,000 of income not paying any tax, that usually is not true. Many of these individuals are wage earners and have at least paid payroll taxes of 15.3% (employee and employer share). Also, individuals pay federal excise taxes when they buy gasoline, alcohol, tobacco, airline tickets and a few other items.  And, don’t forget to look at what your state income and other state and local taxes are to get the full picture of what you contribute to funding government operations.”



 – Annette Nellen, San Jose State University



Caroline Chen

“One of the biggest mistakes a taxpayer makes when having their return prepared by a paid return preparer is not look over and understand what has been reported on their returns.  By signing the return, they are declaring under penalties of perjury that the return is true and correct.”

 – Caroline Tso Chen, Santa Clara University School of Law


Maureen Bruns

“Individuals should understand the differences between ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’ deductions.  Above the line deductions are more advantageous because they reduce taxable income – the tax calculation base – while below the line deductions allow taxpayers to realize a savings based on their marginal tax rate.

In addition, many individuals do not realize that certain items touted as deductions (charitable contributions) are in fact only deductible if the taxpayer is eligible to itemize on their return.”

– Maureen J. Bruns, Carl H. Lindner College of Business, University of Cincinnati


The purpose of this report was to determine which states pay the highest and lowest tax rates, as well as to see how each state compares to the national median.  We based this comparison on eight types of taxation (see below), using the composition of the median national tax burden to construct a weighting system.  That is, we analyzed national spending patterns and tax return data to determine a baseline national tax profile to which we could compare each state.

You can find a breakdown of the types of taxes that we compared as well as the baseline national tax payment profile that we used below.

  • Real Estate Tax  (this metric reflects the median real estate tax payment divided by the median house price – both at the state level)
  • Income Tax – State
  • Income Tax – Local
  • Vehicle Property Tax (this metric only applies to VA & Conn.; data for those states is at the county level)
  • Vehicle Sales Tax (this metric includes vehicle sales tax and registration fee; we used the Toyota Camry L 4D Sedan – the country’s top selling car – as a proxy)
  • Sales & Use Tax (this metric includes state & local data for 2012)
  • Fuel Tax
  • Alcohol Tax (this metric includes state-level data for beer, which accounts for more than 80% of all nationwide alcohol sales)
  • Food Tax
  • Telecom Tax


Average American’s Tax Profile Used for this Report:

Category Taxable Amount
Median house price


Mean income before taxes


Median car price/value


Most sold car in the US 2013

Toyota Camry L 4D Sedan

Amount spent on item subject to sale tax*

$ 10,327

Amount spent on gas

$3,091 / 835.6 gallons

Amount spent on alcohol beverages**

$420 / 30.05 gallons beer

Amount spent on food


Amount spent on telephone services



*Food away from home, Housekeeping supplies, Household furnishings and equipment, Apparel and services, Vehicle maintenance and repairs, Medical supplies, Entertainment, Personal care products and services, Reading

**per capita 21 years and older


Sources:  The data used in this report is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the Internal Revenue Service, The Tax Foundation, the Federation of Tax Administrators, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Automobile Dealers Association, and local Revenue Departments from Virginia and Connecticut.

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