States Without Income Tax: Is There a Benefit to Moving?

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There are some states without income tax, and amongst many of the high income earners I know, they’d love to live in one. So much so, in fact, that I often get question marks and eye rolls when I tell them that living in California is great. Many of my friends won’t even think about California because of the state income taxes here.

However, is it really all that beneficial to live in states without income tax? That’s what I’m going to look into here, and we’ll see what the outcome is.

States without income tax

There are 7 states without income tax, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. Tenneesee and New Hampshire also don’t tax earned income, HOWEVER, they will tax investment income. So, any interest income or dividend income will be taxed at 5% and 2% respectively (for 2019), and you’ll have to file state income tax return.

Everyone else charges a state income tax that you have to pay. See the chart below for the differences.

top income tax ratehttps://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/states-with-no-income-tax-map

There are some stark differences amongst the states as you can see in the chart. Of the states that do have an income tax, some charge a flat rate (meaning everyone pays the same percentage independent of salary), and some charge progressive rates (meaning the more you make, the more you pay). The rates in the chart reflect the highest tax rates possible in that state. For more information about that you can check out the excel chart at taxfoundation.org.

While it’s a nice thought to say you get to save money when you live in a state without income taxes, it’s important to realize something:

States have to make money somehow, so if they aren’t taxing your income, where is their money coming from?

States Without Income Tax Make Money in Other Ways

While living in a state without income tax may save a deduction from your paycheck and decrease your local tax burden, you will definitely be paying the state in other ways. For instance, there are other taxes you pay for: property tax as a homeowner and sales tax any time you go shopping. Let’s take a look at those numbers by states

Property Taxes

This table lists the property taxes for each state, from lowest to highest. It also states the median cost of a home, and calculates for you the median cost of property taxes for people living there. Keep in mind, this is the median, not the average.

The states without income tax are bolded so you can find them quickly. As you’ll see, our friend New Hampshire charges an arm and a leg in property taxes AND the high cost of homes there results in a significant payment for the year. (This is ranked lowest – number 1- to highest – number 51)

StateProperty Tax
Rate
Median cost
of home
Annual tax
to pay
1Hawaii0.27%$587,700$1,607
2Alabama0.42%$137,200$572
3Colorado0.53%$313,600$1,647
3Louisiana0.53%$157,800$840
5District of Columbia0.55%$568,400$3,113
6Delaware0.56%$244,700$1,377
7South Carolina0.57%$154,800$887
8West Virginia0.59%$115,000$678
9Wyoming0.61%$213,300$1,298
10Arkansas0.63%$123,300$776
11Nevada0.64%$242,400$1,542
11Utah0.64%$256,700$1,653
13Arizona0.69%$209,600$1,440
14Idaho0.72%$192,300$1,382
15Tennessee0.73%$158,600$1,153
16California0.76%$475,900$3,617
17New Mexico0.79%$166,800$1,316
18Virginia0.81%$264,900$2,155
18Mississippi0.81%$114,500$924
20Montana0.84%$219,600$1,835
21North Carolina0.85%$165,900$1,410
22Kentucky0.86%$135,300$1,166
22Indiana0.86%$135,400$1,164
24Oklahoma0.90%$130,900$1,177
25Georgia0.91%$166,800$1,510
26Florida0.93%$196,800$1,827
27Missouri0.97%$151,600$1,470
28North Dakota0.99%$185,000$1,828
29Washington1.01%$311,700$3,142
29Oregon1.01%$287,300$2,890
31Maryland1.09%$305,500$3,344
32Minnesota1.13%$211,800$2,388
33Alaska1.18%$265,200$3,136
34Massachusetts1.23%$366,800$4,508
35South Dakota1.32%$159,100$2,101
36Maine1.36%$184,500$2,515
37Kansas1.41%$145,400$2,045
38Iowa1.56%$142,300$2,219
39Michigan1.58%$146,200$2,312
39Ohio1.58%$140,000$2,205
41Pennsylvania1.59%$174,100$2,767
42Rhode Island1.66%$249,800$4,154
43New York1.71%$302,200$5,157
44Nebraska1.77%$147,800$2,621
45Texas1.81%$161,700$2,922
46Vermont1.88%$223,700$4,206
47Wisconsin1.91%$173,600$3,308
48Connecticut2.11%$272,700$5,746
49New Hampshire2.20%$252,800$5,550
50Illinois2.30%$187,200$4,299
51New Jersey2.47%$327,900$8,104
Via WalletHub 2020

Many people may argue that the values here are far less than a state income tax payment, and while that may be true, these costs do add up. And remember, this is money you will be paying once you become a homeowner; there is no escaping it, whereas there are ways to reduce your personal income tax burden.

If you’re thinking, “oh I can just write off the property taxes..”, that will only be possible if you itemize your deductions on your federal tax return and under new tax laws now that is only beneficial if your deductions are more than the standard deduction (which was recently doubled).

Sales Tax

We pay sales taxes when we buy anything and everything. (There are four states that don’t: New Hampshire, Oregon, Delaware, Montana and Alaska [while no state level sales tax, there is regional or local sales tax.])

For everyone else:

Groceries? Sales tax (some states don’t do this, you can find that list here)

Clothing? Sales tax

Cars? Sales tax

Electronics? Sales tax.

Sales tax is that annoying leech that tacks on to every receipt and then you wonder why and how you’re paying a higher price than what you read on the price tag.

This table lists the top 25 highest sales tax states in the US and their corresponding sales tax rates. Four of our non-income tax state friends make this list, including the number 1 spot.

StateLocal
sales tax
State
sales
tax
Total
1. Tennessee2.4779.47
2. Louisiana54.459.45
3. Arkansas2.936.59.43
4. Washington2.676.59.17
5. Alabama5.449.14
6. Oklahoma4.424.58.92
7. Illinois2.496.258.74
8. Kansas2.176.58.67
9. California1.317.258.56
10. New York4.4948.49
11. Arizona2.775.68.37
12. Texas1.946.258.19
13. Nevada1.296.858.14
14. Missouri3.94.238.13
15. New Mexico2.695.137.82
16. Colorado4.732.97.63
18. South Carolina1.4367.43
18. Minnesota0.556.887.43
19. Georgia3.2947.29
20. Ohio1.425.757.17
21. Mississippi0.0777.07
22. Florida1.0567.05
24. Indiana077
24. Rhode Island077
25. North Carolina2.24.756.97

Table: Top 25 states and their sales tax rates. Info obtained via Business Insider

Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Florida all make the high sales tax rate cut off, with Tennessee showing the highest combined sales tax in the country.

Random Charges

DMV

Did you know that the cost to register your car in your state, varies? I didn’t realize how MUCH the variation was until I looked it up. Most states charge a flat annual rate each year, others do a weight based rating system, and still others use other criteria. I also noted that in some states electric cars get charged extra! I thought it would be the opposite but there you are.

Since we are focusing on states without income tax, I will only address the costs of vehicle registration in those states:

StateBase feeAdditional
fees
When you pay
Alaska$100Some areas have registration tax depending on vehicle typeBiennial
Florida$225$14.50 for vehicles < 2,500 lbs.
$22.50 for 2,500 – 3,499 lbs.
$32.50 for vehicles > 3,500 lbs
Annual
Nevada$33Plus there is a government tax based on how much vehicle costs. some counties also have supplemental taxAnnual
New Hampshirevaries$31.20 for vehicles 0-3000 lbs.
$43.20 for vehicles 3001-5000 lbs.
$55.20 for vehicles 5001-8000 lbs.
$0.96/100 lbs. for vehicles 8001-73,280 lbs
Annual
South Dakotavaries$36 for vehicles 2,000 lbs. or less
$72 for vehicles 2,001 to 4,000 lbs.
$108 for vehicles 4,001 to 6,000 lbs.
$144 for vehicles over 6,000 lbs
Annual
Tennessee$23.75Cities or other jurisdictions may charge an additional feeAnnual
Texas$50.75Vehicles 6,001 – 10,000 lbs. pay a $54 base fee.
Local, special plate, inspection and processing &
handling fees apply and vary based on vehicle type, county of registration and county of inspection.
Annual
Washington$30Increased fees apply depending on vehicle type and weight, location, plate type and more.Annual
Wyoming$30Additional county registration fees apply.Annual
Via National Conference of State Legislatures

Apparently driving in Florida will also cost you an arm and a leg and Alaska likes to check on you twice a year.

As you can see though, there are hidden costs everywhere. To give my own example, In California, the base cost is only $46. But then there are all these hidden fees based on the type of car I drive, my location, driving record, and a highway patrol fee. All in I pay a little over $200 just to keep my car registered in the state. So don’t let these base numbers fool you; when it’s all said and done you will be paying a tidy sum.

To check on the costs in your state, or state you’re thinking of living in, check out this website and search for the state.

Cost of parking and speeding tickets

Speeding ticket maximums vary by state. Tennessee is apparently the cheapest place to get fined (max $50), and Nevada one of the most expensive (max $2000).

Same goes with parking tickets. Those rates can vary by state and by city/county. It also depends on what kind of parking violation you’ve performed.

Bringing it all together

As you can see, even if your state isn’t taking your income directly, they will take it indirectly. And they have to; states need income to maintain roads, public schools, provide law enforcement, and fund other public services. As annoying as it is to pay taxes, the point is to help improve the community we live in. Even if you’re “saving” in income tax, you will be paying in other ways.

New Hampshire, without an income or sales tax, as a result has one of the highest property tax rates in the country.

Tennessee only taxes income dividends but has the highest combined sales tax rate in the country.

Texas and Florida have higher-than-average property tax rates. Wyoming and Alaska have the advantage of natural resources to help make up for lost income tax revenue, cashing in on oil drilling and coal mining operations.

How else does this affect the people?

Individual income tax rates, for most states, are progressive as I mentioned above. Meaning the more you make the more you pay. Sucks if you’re a high-income earner, however, this benefits the general population by paying for their public services and programs and wages.

On the flip side, sales and property taxes are constant and do not fluctuate no matter how little or more you make. As a result, then, the state relies on everyone to pay the same level of sales and property tax, for instance. This can place a larger burden on low-income earners, especially if the state is compensating for lack of income tax income.

Is a state without income tax right for you?

It depends on a lot of factors. The uptick in non-income tax costs may not be as much nor have as much of an effect for high-income earners and so a state without income tax may be a better deal overall. It’s important to keep in mind, also, that if you structure your investments and savings a certain way, you can provide a tax shelter for your income and reduce your total tax burden anyway. In addition, if you own your own business, or have a corporation of some kind, the kinds of personal income taxes you have to pay as a result will also be different.

I’d say that instead of only thinking about this when making the decision to move, that you take into account everything else that’s also important: personal preference, proximity to family, job opportunities, and lifestyle goals.

For me, yes I pay a premium on all fronts to live in California, but the weather, the lifestyle, the diversity, and the job opportunity I have here trumps that premium cost. I own a home here and I know that, in the long run, it will hold its value better than other areas of the country independent of market fluctuations. I’m close to an international airport to help with my travel obsession and I never have to worry about the weather. So for all those reasons I’m happy with my choice.

On the flip side, I have friends that refuse to live anywhere other than a state without income tax. For them the benefits and savings far outweigh these other additional costs, and they manage their lifestyles just fine.

In Conclusion

This post isn’t to point out that one decision is better than the other. I just wanted to present the realities that we face. One decision to save on state income tax, can actually just lead to other, higher costs.

For anyone looking to move, or taking these things into consideration, just be aware of everything that comes with that decision!

Good luck!

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10 thoughts on “States Without Income Tax: Is There a Benefit to Moving?”

  1. We moved from TX to OR a few years back and we’ve found that we’re really not worse off financially. The lack of sales tax, much lower property tax and significant savings on all forms of insurance, makes it be roughly the same.

    When we retire and our income goes down, state income tax will be lower and yet our property tax and insurance will also remain lower. If we were still in TX, property tax and high insurance rates would significantly increase our budgetary needs.

    1. yea I think at the end of the day, it really depends on where you were and where you go. State to state there’s so many differences…it’s difficult to make a blanket statement on what or where is better. I”m glad it worked out so well for you!

  2. Great post man. Unfortunately I live in NJ which has the second highest marginal tax rate as well as the highest property taxes. I’m born and raised here and me and my wife have made a career here and my wife is also a doc doing anesthesia. Unfortunately we are not meeting our financial goals because of the high taxes. :(. A lot of that is because we bought a $1.2 million house, but if we were in a tax free state we could easily afford the house. despite making 800K a year we are struggling to meet other financial goals such as travel more and work less. Our other family is here but because of the high cost we have to work so much that we have less time to see them. We regret ever starting a life here but now that we bought the house it seems the cost of buying and selling a house and having to stop work and losing income in order to move it’s just a huge hurdle for us . Sadly it seems we are stuck. And we don’t get the benefit good weather like Cali. I would warn doctors that want to really maximize your financial goals to never consider living in New Jersey. I am blessed that we love our jobs as well as our neighbors but our taxes don’t go towards that!

    1. Ah yea, I remember when writing this post thinking that Nj would be tough. 🙁 I’m sorry to hear that about your finances. I hope that if something shifts with the housing market you could either re-finance, or sell without losing too much and make some moves! In the current climate though, I think we can all be grateful to still have jobs and just hope that everything works out in the end 🙂

      Thank you for reading! and I hope you have a great rest of your week!

    2. You can easily fix your financial problems by selling your $1.2m house and buying something much cheaper. That would fix your entire issue!

  3. Introvert Investor MD

    Bethree:

    Thanks for the excellent detailed analysis! It seems to be written to help those who live in taxed states feel better about it. All I can say is we moved from Maryland to Florida and there is a huge financial difference for us. I was thinking when we came here exactly what you present above that they would “get their money” some other way but I have not experienced that. Also I would add that I am sure what you present above for property taxes at the state level is accurate, but property taxes are done by county so they can vary widely within a state. Lastly, regarding Florida the big difference we did note was insurance costs. These can be much higher here depending where you are.

    Thanks for tackling this topic- a very interesting and important one to think about!

    1. Hi! Yes, I originally did write it with the thought that my research would show that the costs are equivocal, but upon doing the calculations, especially for high-income earners, there is a definite benefit to living in a state without income taxes. That being said, I guess it also matters what your financial and lifestyle goals are. I pay a lot in Cali, but my lifestyle makes up for it.

      I did notice the property tax differences too. Esp because I’m paying more than what I listed for Cali at the state level…however I felt like it may have been too much detail to include in the post, and I was focused on giving more of an overview 🙂 I didn’t realize that about insurance! I’m glad that overall you are net positive in your savings and that Florida is working out for you! I feel like its hard to know what the right decision for you or your family can be and you don’t know for sure what will work out until you try it.

  4. Excellent discussion BeThree.

    I personally have come out WAY ahead by living in an income tax free state. I moved from Ohio to my current location and went from paying state income tax and city income tax x 2 (worked in Cleveland, lived in suburb and both taxed) to absolutely nothing.

    At my current level of income this is close to saving over $60k/year. Although my sales tax is higher than in Ohio, I would have to buy $2.6M of good each year to break even (spoiler alert, I don’t buy that much).

    Property tax may be higher as well but because properties are so much more affordable the absolute dollar amount is far less. I know of some friends that live in California that are paying $30k/yr in property tax while mine amounts to $4150 (and that’s an amazing property with 7.67 acres of land and 2 natural waterfalls and a 3150 sq foot home).

    My lucky decision to move where I did is the reason why I reached FI so quickly.

    1. Thanks! and yes, the more I think about this and when I was researching it, it seems this decision would be most beneficial for high income earners – assuming you don’t go on crazy spending sprees every weekend and blow all the money you’re saving. Living in California, I know that I’m paying a premium for everything…but I’m hoping that my investments here pay off and make up for that in the long run!

      I’m glad your decision worked out so well for you! and now I want to see pictures of your natural waterfalls haha.

      1. You write that states need the income from some place, then conclude it has to come from taxes and other fees. However, states with oil and gas production need much less revenue in the form of taxes and fees. Additionally, a house in CA that is valued at $1M could be purchased in another state for one third to one half of the inflated CA values. Hence, the percentage of real estate taxes based upon value, is much higher in CA plus lower price homes will require a smaller or no mortgage decreasing or eliminating another major expense.

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