Thirteen states tax Social Security benefits, a matter of significant interest to retirees. Each of these states has its own approach to determining what share of benefits is subject to tax, though these provisions can be grouped together into a few broad categories. Today’s map illustrates these approaches.
All three options would primarily benefit higher-earning tax filers, with repeal of the SALT cap increasing the after-tax income of the top 1 percent by about 2.8 percent; the bottom 80 percent would see minimal benefit.
Removing the marriage penalty and raising the SALT cap would also mostly benefit higher earners, though after-tax incomes of filers in the 95th to 99th income percentiles would rise the most. For example, raising the SALT cap to $15,000 single and $30,000 joint would result in a 0.8 percent increase in after-tax income for the 95th to 99th income percentiles and a 0.4 percent increase for the top 1 percent.
The top 1 percent benefits less because the SALT cap remains in place, so there is less of a benefit as a portion of their incomes when slightly increasing the cap. For example, a joint filer with $5 million in after-tax income could receive an additional $7,400 in reduced tax liability ($20,000 in increased SALT deductions times the 37 percent top individual income tax rate), which is a 0.1 percent increase in after-tax income.
Traditionally, revenue dedicated to infrastructure spending has been raised through taxes on motor fuel, license fees, and tolls, but revenue from motor fuel has proven less effective over the last few decades. Between developments in vehicles’ fuel economy, increased sales of electric vehicles, and inflation, taxes on motor fuel generally raise less revenue per vehicle miles traveled (VMT) than they did in the past. As a result, most states contribute revenue from other sources to make up differences between infrastructure revenue and expenditures.
The amount of revenue states raise through taxes on infrastructure and transportation vary to a significant degree—as do the sources. Four states (California, Indiana, Montana, and Tennessee) raise enough revenue to cover their highway spending, but 46 states and the District of Columbia must cover the difference with tax revenue from other levies. Alaska (17 percent) and North Dakota (29 percent), which both rely heavily on revenue from severance taxes, raise the lowest proportion of highway funds from transportation taxes and fees.
It’s not just a matter of the state/local tax levels for each state, but also what income levels are like for the state.
In any case, the pattern of which states’ taxpayers get the biggest boost from SALT deductibility might surprise you a little, such as with Utah and Georgia. But many aren’t surprising at all, such as New York and New Jersey.
But even without considering the geographical footprint, obviously high-income folks get the biggest boost from removing the SALT cap. This has been known since the TCJA back in 2017 when they imposed the cap to begin with. It’s partly why it was done.
In case you are thinking, “Well, the rich make more, they should pay more,” the top 1 percent of taxpayers account for 20 percent of all income (AGI). So, their 40 percent share of income taxes is twice their share of the nation’s income.
Similarly, in 2018, the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers paid $311 billion in income taxes. That amounted to 20 percent of all income taxes paid, the highest level since 2001, as far back as the IRS data allows us to measure. The top 0.1 percent of taxpayers in 2018 paid a greater share of the income tax burden than the bottom 75 percent of taxpayers combined.
President Joe Biden and congressional policymakers have proposed several changes to the corporate income tax, including raising the rate from 21 percent to 28 percent and imposing a 15 percent minimum tax on the book income of large corporations. The proposals are being considered to raise revenue for new spending programs and would repeal changes to the corporate tax made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in late 2017.
An increase in the federal corporate tax rate to 28 percent would raise the U.S. federal-state combined tax rate to 32.34 percent, highest in the OECD and among Group of Seven (G7) countries, harming U.S. economic competitiveness and increasing the cost of investment in America. We estimate that this would reduce long-run economic output by 0.8 percent, eliminate 159,000 jobs, and reduce wages by 0.7 percent. Workers across the income scale would bear much of the tax increase. For example, the bottom 20 percent of earners would on average see a 1.45 percent drop in after-tax income in the long run.
Many states have moved away from taxing assets after people die because of the harm to family businesses and farms, but a new proposal before state lawmakers would double Illinois’ estate tax.
House Bill 3920 would hike the existing state tax on estates of over $4 million to 9.95% from 4.95%. Unlike neighboring Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Missouri, Illinois is one of just a dozen states that still have an estate or inheritance tax. Tax Foundation analyst Katherine Loughead noted, “The top marginal estate tax rate under this proposal would become the highest in the country at 21%.”
While the bill’s sponsors intend the extra revenues to be used to support Illinoisans with disabilities, hiking the estate tax would squeeze family farmers, reduce the accumulation of productive assets, encourage spendthrift behavior, fuel tax avoidance and evasion, and drive wealth to other states.
Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have now published revenue data for all 12 months of 2020; in those states, revenues are up $3.2 billion in aggregate compared to the previous calendar year, thanks to robust gains in financial markets and federal assistance that has kept businesses afloat and provided benefits to individuals. Some of those are, indeed, taxable benefits, in the case of enhanced and expanded unemployment compensation benefits. For the remaining seven states, it is necessary to project revenues through the end of the calendar year based either on U.S. Census Bureau data through the three quarters, or, in Nevada and New Mexico, state data running through October and November respectively.
These adjustments yield an aggregate $1.7 billion decline in state revenues. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, states would receive $195.3 billion in aid, divided according to each state’s share of national unemployed workers. Under Senate amendments, a further adjustment is made to ensure that each state receives, at minimum, the amount it was allocated for purposes of the Coronavirus Relief Fund under the CARES Act. While some conservative lawmakers have criticized this allocation model (which benefits states with steeper job losses) on the grounds that different state policies and approaches may yield some of this variation and that the federal government should be neutral to these decisions, we have argued previously that using the change in unemployment is a more efficient targeting method than allocating aid per capita. Far less defensible, however, is the notion that aid to states should be 116 times the decline in state revenues—especially since the federal government has already provided over $200 billion in fungible aid to subnational governments.
Policymakers will need to determine if the tax code is the proper vehicle to disburse such cash benefits and if the IRS can handle the additional responsibilities. Over the course of many years, the IRS has been tasked with an ever-growing list of administrative duties that go well beyond simple revenue collection—everything from poverty alleviation to education, housing, and health-care benefits. The American Rescue Plan, in addition to other pandemic response measures, would now require the IRS to administer additional benefits on a recurring monthly basis, much as a traditional spending agency, all while processing upwards of 160 million tax returns.
Corporations in the United States pay federal corporate income taxes levied at a 21 percent rate. Many states also levy taxes on corporate income. Forty-four states and D.C. have corporate income taxes on the books, with top rates ranging from North Carolina’s single rate of 2.5 percent to a top marginal rate of 11.5 percent in New Jersey. Fourteen states levy graduated corporate income tax rates, while the remaining 30 states levy a flat rate on corporate income.
In Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and Washington, corporations are subject to gross receipts taxes in lieu of corporate income taxes. Delaware and Oregon impose a tax on corporate income and a separate levy on gross receipts.
Individual income taxes are a major source of state government revenue, accounting for 38 percent of state tax collections in fiscal year 2018, the latest year of data available.
Forty-two states levy individual income taxes. Forty-one tax wage and salary income, while one state—New Hampshire—exclusively taxes dividend and interest income. Eight states levy no individual income tax at all.
Of those states taxing wages, nine have single-rate tax structures, with one rate applying to all taxable income. Conversely, 32 states and the District of Columbia levy graduated-rate income taxes, with the number of brackets varying widely by state. Hawaii has 12 brackets, the most in the country.
And that’s the context of that big $932 million tax hike on business Gov. J.B. Pritzker is pushing as part of his proposed 2022 budget.
Pritzker calls the proposal “closing corporate loopholes.” Arguably that’s true, at least in the sense that any tax break I don’t receive must be someone else’s undeserved loophole. But the proposal comes at the very time when population and jobs have begun to drop not only statewide but in the metropolitan area, and at a time when the state refuses to confront its ever-rising pension debt. Not to mention Chicago’s murder and car-jacking wave. Or what Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi is up to.
In fairness to Pritzker, Illinois is not the only state to be moving its tax structure in his proposed direction, at least in part. For instance, according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington research group that’s fairly conservative but also frequently cited in economic circles, only 16 states grant the full accelerated depreciation that’s now in federal tax code. Pritzker’s proposed change there is worth $214 million a year.