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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

5 - State and Local Tax Takeaways

from Part II - States, Federalism, and Antipoverty Efforts


What federal tax structures giveth to low- and middle-income families, state and local tax structures taketh away. Chapter 5 tells the story of our unjust American tax system. While the overall federal tax structure is generally progressive, state and local tax systems are notably regressive. When analyzed as a whole, the combined tax system imposed on Americans today is mildly progressive. Chapter 5 describes the attributes of state and local tax systems focusing on structures that impose higher effective tax rates on low- and middle-income households. The chapter is divided into three sections discussing the major components of state and local taxation including property, sales and excise, and income taxation. Each section describes common attributes by focusing on specific state data and examples. States with particularly regressive features are highlighted as well as states with more progressive features. The chapter focuses on details of progressivity to provide not only a catalyst but also a template for positive change. The chapter concludes that state and local tax analysis must be part of any tax distribution analysis. Federal, state, and local tax policies and costs must be viewed together to understand that many poor families suffer a tax burden, but tax structures exist that governments can implement to mitigate and even alleviate this hardship.