by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The good news Forbes delivers in its latest issue to N.C. tax reformers? This state does not appear on the list of the 10 worst states for taxation of high-income earners.
The bad news? We’re not among the 10 best, either. Neighboring Tennessee makes that list.
The great tax divide has been widening as Republicans have hacked away at progressive income taxes while Democrats have raised rates on high-income folks. The GOP now has sole control (the governor’s mansion and both legislative houses) of half the states, and not coincidentally, only one of those states (Iowa, which just came under full GOP control) ranked among our ten worst tax states for the rich.
The November elections reinforced the trend. California voted overwhelmingly to extend its 13.3% rate (the highest in the nation) until 2030, while voters in Democratic-leaning (if quirky) Maine voted to raise the top rate from 7.15% to 10.15% for 2017. Meanwhile, in Iowa, Republicans are promising to use their expanded power to push through rate cuts.
This map shows the ten best and worst states for the wealthy based on high-income tax rates, as well as the income level at which the most punishing rate kicks in (calculated for a married couple in 2016). Seven of the ten best states have no income taxes at all, and the other three exempt large swaths of income. Keep in mind, however, that some states without income taxes wallop retirees with high real estate or sales taxes, while some high-income tax locales (Hawaii, for example) have generous exemptions for retirement income.