Property taxes are only part of the picture

Real Estate Tax Talk

Cul-de-sac image via Shutterstock.Cul-de-sac image via Shutterstock.

Do you think your state’s property tax burden is too high?

Before you start complaining how high property taxes are in your state, take a look at the charts below to see not only property taxes are in your state, but total taxes.

Your property taxes may be high for a reason — for example, if, like Florida, your state has no income tax.

First, see how property taxes in your state compare with those in the other 49 states. The following chart shows the amount of local and state property taxes collected per capita in each state in 2009.

Property tax collections by state

State Property tax collections, per capita Rank
Alabama $503 50
Alaska $1,728 10
Arizona $1,119 32
Arkansas $549 49
California $1,465 15
Colorado $1,277 24
Connecticut $2,473 2
Delaware $712 43
Florida $1,589 13
Georgia $1,092 34
Hawaii $983 35
Idaho $813 40
Illinois $1,782 9
Indiana $1,124 31
Iowa $1,305 22
Kansas $1,353 19
Kentucky $663 46
Louisiana $702 45
Maine $1,640 11
Maryland $1,205 27
Massachusetts $1,874 8
Michigan $1,452 16
Minnesota $1,346 20
Mississippi $793 41
Missouri $929 37
Montana $1,301 23
Nebraska $1,437 17
Nevada $1,318 21
New Hampshire $2,240 3
New Jersey $2,663 1
New Mexico $606 47
New York $2,136 5
North Carolina $867 38
North Dakota $1,165 29
Ohio $1,135 30
Oklahoma $597 48
Oregon $1,172 28
Pennsylvania $1,227 25
Rhode Island $2,018 7
South Carolina $970 36
South Dakota $1,111 33
Tennessee $748 42
Texas $1,475 14
Utah $863 39
Vermont $2,056 6
Virginia $1,431 18
Washington $1,226 26
West Virginia $709 44
Wisconsin $1,633 12
Wyoming $2,285 4

Source: taxfoundation.org.

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The chart shows that Florida has pretty high property taxes — 13th highest in the nation. Does that mean a Floridian would save money if he or she moved to a low property tax state like Arkansas, which ranks 49th? Not necessarily.

Each of the 50 states has its own tax system, with its own mix of taxes. In addition to property taxes, these can include:

  • income taxes
  • state sales taxes
  • excise taxes — for example, taxes on gasoline, cigarettes, and liquor
  • user fees — for example, fees to camp in state parks or to drive on state highways, and
  • other taxes, such as death and gift taxes, documentary and stock transfer taxes.

The mix of taxes the states utilize to finance their activities can vary markedly from state to state. For example, seven states don’t have income taxes: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington or Wyoming.

Five have no state sales taxes: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon.

All states have local property taxes, while 36 also have state property taxes.

To determine which states have the highest and lowest taxes you have to look at all of the taxes each state charges, not just property taxes.

There are various ways to measure state total tax burdens. The simplest way is to figure out each state’s taxes per capita — that is, divide the total state taxes paid by the total number of people in the state. The following chart shows the per capita taxes for each state in 2011.

Total state taxes

State Tax revenue per capita Rank
Alabama $4,855 37
Alaska $17,630 1
Arizona $4,195 47
Arkansas $5,957 16
California $5,634 23
Colorado $4,302 45
Connecticut $6,570 12
Delaware $8,091 5
Florida $3,974 48
Georgia $3,807 50
Hawaii $7,453 7
Idaho $4,654 41
Illinois $4,527 42
Indiana $4,836 38
Iowa $5,921 17
Kansas $5,242 30
Kentucky $5,409 26
Louisiana $5,908 18
Maine $6,213 14
Maryland $5,683 21
Massachusetts $6,832 9
Michigan $5,541 24
Minnesota $6,279 13
Mississippi $5,987 15
Missouri $4,511 43
Montana $5,800 20
Nebraska $5,113 32
Nevada $3,848 49
New Hampshire $4,746 40
New Jersey $5,865 19
New Mexico $7,208 8
New York $7,660 6
North Carolina $4,773 39
North Dakota $9,838 3
Ohio $5,371 28
Oklahoma $5,347 29
Oregon $5,400 27
Pennsylvania $5,459 25
Rhode Island $6,788 11
South Carolina $4,893 35
South Dakota $5,028 33
Tennessee $4,313 44
Texas $4,209 46
Utah $4,947 34
Vermont $8,988 4
Virginia $4,863 36
Washington $5,156 31
West Virginia $6,818 10
Wisconsin $5,636 22
Wyoming $10,694 2

Source: taxfoundation.org.

Based on this chart we can see the total mix of taxes in Florida is actually much lower than in Arkansas: Florida ranks 48th, while Arkansas ranks 16th.

Stephen Fishman is a tax expert, attorney and author who has published 18 books, including “Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Contractors, Freelancers and Consultants,” “Deduct It,” “Working as an Independent Contractor,” and “Working with Independent Contractors.” He welcomes your questions for this weekly column.

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