If you ever doubt how much Americans hate to pay taxes, just remember that the Revolutionary War started in large part as a tax revolt. Having played such a prominent role in the formation of the United States, tax aversion is part of the nation's DNA.
Even after the passage of sweeping tax cuts late last year, politicians are already considering another round of tax cuts. Such promises play well with mid-term elections coming up. The only problem is, politicians have also promised record military appropriations and are contemplating comprehensive infrastructure revitalization, not to mention the other expenses that go with running a country of more than 300 million people.
So who pays for all this?
MoneyRates.com looked at federal taxes paid by state -- how residents in each of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) contribute to the nation's needs via their federal taxes. This article focuses on the ten biggest and ten smallest contributors, based on the amount paid per adult resident of each state.
See where you stand. How do you stack up against your fellow state residents, and how much does your state chip in toward the national tax burden?
Methodology: Which states pay the most federal taxes?
Using data from the IRS and the Census Bureau, MoneyRates calculated the total amount of federal taxes paid by each state overall -- and also on a per capita basis to adjust for state-by-state differences in population and wealth. The key figure used in these rankings is federal taxes paid per adult.
What affects the total amount of taxes paid
The average American adult pays $6,151 per year in federal taxes. However, residents of Connecticut pay $10,861. To explain this unfortunate inequity, it helps to understand these factors:
- Population: Population affects the total amount of taxes, but this is neutralized by looking at taxes per capita. For example, California has the highest adult population of any state at just over 30 million, and it also pays the most total federal taxes at over $220 billion. However, it ranks just sixth on the list of taxes paid per adult resident, in part because per capita income is lower than in some of the higher-ranked states.
- Wealth: As the above suggests, wealthier states tend to pay more taxes per capita, both because federal tax rates are higher for higher earners and because those higher rates are being applied to larger dollar amounts. For example, Connecticut tops the list of federal taxes paid per adult resident, in part because per capita earnings are higher than in any other state.
- Number of returns filed: Another factor is how many people in each state are actually filing returns. There are some surprisingly large discrepancies between the number of adults in some states and those filing federal tax returns. For example, while over 65 percent of adult Alaskans file federal tax returns, less than 54 percent of adults in West Virginia do so. This may be due to poverty, retirement, or simply failure to meet the filing obligation.
Top 10: Federal taxes paid by state
Here are the ten states that pay the most in federal taxes per adult resident:
Adults in this state pay an average of $10,861 in federal taxes, making it the only state to pay over $10,000 a year. In some ways, it's a nice problem to have because they have the highest average income at $60,327.
- District of Columbia
Since some of its most prominent residents are also responsible for spending the money, it seems only fitting that they should chip in for a healthy share of the cost. With an average federal tax bill of $10,625, this is the only area besides Connecticut where that figure tops $10,000.
The average adult pays $9,503 in federal taxes in this wealthy state.
- New York
Up to this point, the top three per capita tax bills went along with the top three average incomes. Not so here. New Yorkers earn a bit less than their New Jersey neighbors; but at $8,850, they pay a bit more in taxes.
- New Jersey
Residents of New Jersey duck in just under New York with an average tax bill per adult of $8,835.
Californians pay the most federal taxes in total, but ranking tenth in per capita income drags its average tax bill per adult down to sixth at $7,424.
There are fewer than half a million adults in Wyoming, but they contribute an average of $7,393 to the federal coffers.
The average federal tax bill per adult in the state of Washington is $7,112.
Another large and fairly wealthy state, residents of Illinois pay $7,005 in federal taxes per year.
- New Hampshire
New Hampshire's small population ranked second for percent of adults filing, pushing the $6,977 tax bill per adult well over the national average.
Bottom 10: Federal taxes paid by state
The following states paid the lowest average federal taxes per adult resident:
At $3,024, Mississippi's lowest per capita federal tax bill is less than half the national average of $6,151. This is largely a function of having the lowest per capita income in the nation.
- West Virginia
The low average tax per adult of $3,208 is largely a function of having the nation's second-lowest per capita income, but also West Virginia has the lowest tax filing rate of any state in the union.
- New Mexico
The average federal taxes paid by residents of New Mexico is $3,600 per year.
Adults in this state actually earn a little less than those in New Mexico, but at $3,677 they have a higher tax bill because, on average, they pay a slightly higher federal income tax rate (possibly because of how deductions and other tax breaks are utilized).
Kentucky has a higher percent of adults filing than Arkansas and a slightly higher income per capita, which contribute to a higher average tax bill for residents of Kentucky at $3,715.
Though Alabama ranked 24th in the nation for its adult population of 3.7 million, its residents pay a fairly low $3,749 annually for federal taxes.
- South Carolina
Still well below the average federal tax bill, the $3,897 amount residents of South Carolina pay each year is just 12.47% of their annual incomes.
Among the states with the lowest adult population and adults filing returns, Idaho's average federal tax paid is only $3,900 per year.
At $4,084 per year, the tax burden Maine's 1.07 million residents shoulder is edging closer to the national average.
Ranking 25th for adult population and total tax, the federal taxes paid by residents of Louisiana is still low at $4,332 per year.
Impact of tax reform
It will be interesting to see how the recent tax reform act will impact all of these numbers in subsequent years. While wealthier states tend to chip in more per capita than most, the lowering of federal tax brackets for higher earners could reduce this differential. And tax brackets aside, the reduced emphasis on itemized deductions (due to higher standard deductions and limits on state and local tax deductions as well as the mortgage interest deduction) could seriously shake up the numbers in the future.
Indeed, changes in tax law create a great deal of uncertainty. In order to avoid an unpleasant surprise at the end of the year, be sure you know the major provisions of the 2018 tax changes and have adjusted your plans accordingly. After all, it's nice to contribute to the nation's revenue needs, but few people want to contribute more than necessary.
All 50 states and D.C.
If you didn't see your state in the lists above, scroll down to find out where your state is ranked among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
|Rank||State||Tax Per Capita||Adult Population||% of Adults Filing||Income Per Capita||Tax Liability as a % of Income|
|2||District of Columbia||$10,624.76||560,277||61.53%||$ 58,393.25||18.20%|
|3||Massachusetts||$ 9,503.20||5,433,677||62.52%||$ 55,754.12||17.04%|
|4||New York||$ 8,849.66||15,564,730||61.77%||$ 50,984.92||17.36%|
|5||New Jersey||$ 8,834.72||6,959,717||63.02%||$ 53,533.95||16.50%|
|6||California||$ 7,424.24||30,157,154||58.89%||$ 46,543.57||15.95%|
|7||Wyoming||$ 7,392.61||446,600||62.38%||$ 47,382.45||15.60%|
|8||Washington||$ 7,111.99||5,658,502||60.66%||$ 46,813.87||15.19%|
|9||Illinois||$ 7,005.35||9,875,430||62.40%||$ 45,364.92||15.44%|
|10||New Hampshire||$ 6,977.27||1,074,207||64.52%||$ 46,992.78||14.85%|
|11||Maryland||$ 6,929.99||4,667,719||63.49%||$ 48,264.14||14.36%|
|12||Alaska||$ 6,805.26||554,567||65.32%||$ 45,849.72||14.84%|
|13||Colorado||$ 6,691.16||4,279,173||61.16%||$ 44,924.08||14.89%|
|14||North Dakota||$ 6,690.84||581,641||63.50%||$ 44,796.49||14.94%|
|15||Minnesota||$ 6,580.09||4,231,619||64.40%||$ 46,400.99||14.18%|
|16||Virginia||$ 6,543.78||6,541,685||59.80%||$ 44,849.46||14.59%|
|17||Texas||$ 6,253.94||20,568,009||59.08%||$ 40,071.67||15.61%|
|18||Florida||$ 6,023.37||16,465,727||58.47%||$ 37,791.70||15.94%|
|19||Pennsylvania||$ 5,837.21||10,109,422||61.33%||$ 40,645.59||14.36%|
|20||South Dakota||$ 5,657.29||652,167||63.69%||$ 40,057.83||14.12%|
|21||Rhode Island||$ 5,492.29||848,045||62.20%||$ 39,787.05||13.80%|
|22||Nevada||$ 5,478.30||2,262,631||59.70%||$ 36,921.34||14.84%|
|23||Kansas||$ 5,315.03||2,192,338||61.08%||$ 38,806.10||13.70%|
|24||Wisconsin||$ 5,204.04||4,491,015||63.25%||$ 39,457.07||13.19%|
|25||Delaware||$ 5,200.01||747,791||60.54%||$ 38,976.27||13.34%|
|26||Nebraska||$ 5,104.38||1,433,791||62.72%||$ 39,308.96||12.99%|
|27||Michigan||$ 4,917.18||7,737,243||60.97%||$ 36,393.30||13.51%|
|28||Oregon||$ 4,888.63||3,224,738||58.13%||$ 37,252.19||13.12%|
|29||Vermont||$ 4,823.69||506,066||64.44%||$ 38,334.81||12.58%|
|30||Ohio||$ 4,786.28||9,002,201||62.12%||$ 36,402.90||13.15%|
|31||Hawaii||$ 4,785.54||1,120,541||61.45%||$ 37,886.49||12.63%|
|32||Georgia||$ 4,727.09||7,798,827||56.97%||$ 34,650.70||13.64%|
|33||Iowa||$ 4,707.79||2,403,962||60.50%||$ 37,313.19||12.62%|
|34||Missouri||$ 4,689.74||4,706,137||59.24%||$ 35,120.05||13.35%|
|35||Utah||$ 4,670.48||2,129,444||59.34%||$ 37,758.78||12.37%|
|36||Tennessee||$ 4,670.13||5,149,399||57.68%||$ 33,266.40||14.04%|
|37||North Carolina||$ 4,474.21||7,848,068||56.79%||$ 33,894.54||13.20%|
|38||Montana||$ 4,436.92||814,909||61.17%||$ 34,873.90||12.72%|
|39||Arizona||$ 4,422.17||5,299,579||54.81%||$ 32,827.75||13.47%|
|40||Indiana||$ 4,416.98||5,057,601||61.38%||$ 34,771.93||12.70%|
|41||Oklahoma||$ 4,370.22||2,961,933||55.44%||$ 33,086.11||13.21%|
|42||Louisiana||$ 4,331.61||3,567,717||55.89%||$ 31,895.41||13.58%|
|43||Maine||$ 4,084.02||1,076,765||59.97%||$ 33,625.62||12.15%|
|44||Idaho||$ 3,899.83||1,245,967||57.94%||$ 32,025.58||12.18%|
|45||South Carolina||$ 3,897.15||3,863,498||56.16%||$ 31,255.21||12.47%|
|46||Alabama||$ 3,749.03||3,766,477||54.53%||$ 30,080.52||12.46%|
|47||Kentucky||$ 3,714.74||3,426,345||55.74%||$ 30,350.75||12.24%|
|48||Arkansas||$ 3,677.47||2,283,195||53.83%||$ 29,523.31||12.46%|
|49||New Mexico||$ 3,600.42||1,590,352||57.69%||$ 29,747.71||12.10%|
|50||West Virginia||$ 3,207.77||1,456,034||53.64%||$ 27,577.05||11.63%|
|51||Mississippi||$ 3,024.18||2,267,438||54.90%||$ 26,395.08||11.46%|