Do you think taxes are high where you live? You might not be so sure after you compare the tax rates in your area with some of the high-burden cities on this list.
GOBankingRates used the household median income for each of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. to determine the average American’s tax bill, including federal, state and local income taxes; Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax, which is a federal payroll tax; and total income taxes. Though it can feel like the government is taking a sizable chunk out of your paycheck, you might actually live in one of the most tax-favorable cities in America.
- Total tax bill: $5,050
Miami has the second-lowest median income among the 50 biggest cities in America, which helps keep income and FICA taxes low. The overall tax bill in Miami is mostly kept in check because there aren’t any state or local income taxes, meaning you can live in the balmy city without handing over much of your paycheck to the government.
- Total tax bill: $5,503
Unfortunately, Detroit suffers from the lowest median income among the 50 biggest U.S. cities. However, Detroit residents encounter low federal and FICA taxes as a result. Although Michigan does levy state income tax, overall taxes in Detroit are below average.
48. Memphis, Tenn.
- Total tax bill: $5,882
Memphis residents benefit from a low average tax bill due to the lack of state and local income taxes. Incomes remain below average as well, dragging down federal and FICA tax liability.
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47. New Orleans
- Total tax bill: $6,928
Incomes in the land of jazz and beignets are almost identical to those in Memphis, Tenn., but the average tax bill in the Big Easy is higher by over $1,000 due to Louisiana state tax. However, residents of New Orleans don’t face any local income tax.
46. Tucson, Ariz.
- Total tax bill: $7,079
Even out west near the Valley of the Sun, cities with low taxes can be found. Although state taxes are lighter in Arizona compared to the rest of America, a below-average median income is the main contributor to low taxes in Tucson. Luckily, Tucson residents also have no local income tax.
45. El Paso, Texas
- Total tax bill: $7,100
Texas has no state income tax, so residents can take advantage of a low overall tax bill. El Paso would have been one of the competitors for the lowest overall tax liability in the nation, but higher average incomes trigger heftier federal and FICA taxes. Still, people in El Paso benefit from residing in one of the top cities where you can live off less than $50,000.
- Total tax bill: $7,465
The average income for Milwaukee residents is below that of El Paso residents, but their overall tax bill is still higher. The culprit here is the relatively high state income taxes levied by Wisconsin, which adds over $1,500 to the average tax bill.
- Total tax bill: $7,661
Dallas residents enjoy a bump of approximately $9,000 in annual income over those in Milwaukee, but their tax bill is only about a couple hundred dollars more. The math works out because Dallas residents don’t have to pay any state or local income taxes.
42. Tampa, Fla.
- Total tax bill: $7,850
From a tax perspective, Tampa is almost a mirror image of Dallas. Residents share nearly the same income, and there aren’t any state or local income taxes in either city, meaning the only liabilities that residents face are federal and FICA taxes.
- Total tax bill: $8,076
Houston is another Texan city that benefits from low overall taxes due to the lack of state or local income tax liability. However, Space City residents earn the highest incomes among the cities in the bottom 10 of GOBankingRates’ list, which translates to higher average federal and FICA tax bills.
40. San Antonio
- Total tax bill: $8,138
The tax situation in San Antonio is nearly identical to Houston’s. As residents of Texas, San Antonians don’t pay state or local income taxes. The median income in San Antonio is only a few hundred dollars higher than the median income in Houston, resulting in a slightly higher overall tax liability.
39. Jacksonville, Fla.
- Total tax bill: $8,304
Jacksonville is the first city on GOBankingRates’ list to have a median annual income above $50,000, resulting in higher federal and FICA tax liabilities. However, there aren’t any state or local income taxes in Jacksonville, keeping overall tax obligations low.
38. Fresno, Calif.
- Total tax bill: $8,540
California is known for having some of the highest state income taxes in the nation, but Fresno — located in the Central Valley — can still count itself among the cities with a low overall tax bill. The trade-off is the city’s low average median income, which is nearly $6,000 below that of Jacksonville, Fla.
37. Tulsa, Okla.
- Total tax bill: $8,791
The median household income in Tulsa is slightly below that in Fresno, Calif., but residents still face a higher overall tax bill. State income taxes in Oklahoma are actually higher than in California, and the average income is about $44,500 in the Sooner State.
36. Nashville, Tenn.
- Total tax bill: $8,972
Incomes in Nashville take quite a jump compared to previously mentioned cities in this ranking, approaching the average of larger cities such as Los Angeles. Although Music City residents don’t have to pay state or local income taxes, their higher average annual salaries result in higher federal and FICA taxes.
35. Las Vegas
- Total tax bill: $9,061
Sin City residents don’t have to hand over any of their hard-earned cash by way of state or local income taxes, but they do rack up a bill when it comes to federal and FICA taxes. Average incomes in Las Vegas are fairly high, triggering moderate overall taxes despite the state exemption. It’s one of the cities where you can be “rich” earning less than $100,000.
- Total tax bill: $9,200
Residents of Philadelphia might not feel the brotherly love that the city is named for when it comes paying their taxes. Philadelphia is one of the few cities on this list that levies both state and local income taxes, resulting in a higher overall tax bill in spite of relatively low average annual salaries.
- Total tax bill: $9,274
Among the 50 biggest U.S. cities, Indianapolis is one of only eight cities that collect both state and local income taxes, pushing Indiana’s capital to a moderate overall level of taxes despite below-average resident salaries.
32. Arlington, Texas
- Total tax bill: $9,774
A big jump in median annual salary compared to the previously mentioned cities on GOBankingRates’ list results in a higher tax bill for Arlington residents than one might think, given that there are no state or local income tax obligations. Federal and FICA taxes are the sole contributors to the city’s total income tax bill.
31. Albuquerque, N.M.
- Total tax bill: $9,815
New Mexico imposes state income tax on its residents, unlike Arlington, Texas, but the average tax bill in Albuquerque is almost the same. This is due to the median income in Albuquerque, which falls nearly $6,000 below the average income in Arlington. Overall, New Mexico is one of the states that hit retirees with the steepest taxes.
- Total tax bill: $10,085
In the Sun Belt, Phoenix residents enjoy a median household income above $52,000. There are no local income taxes in Phoenix, but Arizona does levy state tax, making it the first city on GOBankingRates’ list with an average total tax bill of at least $10,000.
29. Mesa, Ariz.
- Total tax bill: $10,110
Mesa, which is a Phoenix suburb, shares almost identical income and tax characteristics with its neighboring city. Both places have median incomes of about $52,000, with average total tax bills of just over $10,000. Like Phoenix residents, people in Mesa pay state income tax but no local tax.
28. Fort Worth, Texas
- Total tax bill: $10,292
Fort Worth and Dallas might be considered twin cities, but Fort Worth residents are much better off, earning over $10,000 more than their Dallas neighbors on average. Although there aren’t any state or local income tax liabilities in either city, the higher Fort Worth salaries result in much larger overall tax bills.
27. Columbus, Ohio
- Total tax bill: $10,517
Columbus residents don’t have particularly high incomes, but their overall tax liability is significant due to both state and local income taxes. Columbus is one of only eight cities on GOBankingRates’ list that face local income taxes, pushing it higher in this ranking.
26. Oklahoma City
- Total tax bill: $10,605
Although the average annual income in Oklahoma is about average, it has a fairly high state income tax rate. The median household income of $51,581 in Oklahoma City results in over $2,000 in state income taxes alone, on top of federal and FICA taxes.
25. Kansas City, Mo.
- Total tax bill: $10,724
Kansas City residents are burdened with a fairly high overall tax bill considering that average annual incomes are middling. The culprit lies in the double threat of both state and local income taxes, which add a combined $2,502 to the average tax bill.
- Total tax bill: $10,770
Baltimore is another city that suffers from both state and local income taxes, which saddles residents with high tax bills even though they earn the lowest average income out of the top 25 cities on this list. The total tax bill of $10,770 is nearly one-quarter of the median income in Baltimore, which is $46,641.
- Total tax bill: $11,354
High state income taxes and median incomes are responsible for landing Chicago in the most taxed half of the 50 biggest U.S. cities. A resident earning Chicago’s median income of $52,497 will face a whopping $2,489 in state taxes.
- Total tax bill: $11,372
Top earners in Atlanta should expect to fork over quite a bit of their money to the state — even a median salary of $51,701 triggers $2,743 just in state income taxes. Fortunately, Atlanta residents pay nothing in local income taxes, which prevents the city from rising in this ranking.
21. Louisville, Ky.
- Total tax bill: $11,517
With a median annual income of just $49,439, Louisville wouldn’t seem like a candidate for the 25 worst states in terms of total tax bills. However, Louisville residents are burdened with an average state income tax of $2,345 and local tax of $1,088, which are enough to build up a larger total tax bill.
20. Los Angeles
- Total tax bill: $11,552
Los Angeles shares the same burden as most of the top 20 cities with the biggest tax bills: high state income taxes. Overall, California is one of the worst states for the middle class. Although residents in the City of Angels enjoy relatively higher incomes, this pushes federal and FICA taxes up as well. No local income taxes are due, however.
19. Sacramento, Calif.
- Total tax bill: $11,595
Incomes and tax liabilities in California’s capital city are nearly identical to those in Los Angeles. Both cities have an annual median income of approximately $54,500, with state taxes coming in at about $2,100.
18. Omaha, Neb.
- Total tax bill: $11,625
Omaha might be part of Middle America, but there’s nothing middling about the taxes that residents have to pay. Omaha residents earning the median income of $53,789 can expect to pay $2,377 in state income tax, which is enough to push the city into the top 20 most expensive cities.
Overall, retirees might fare particularly poorly in Nebraska — it’s No. 1 among the worst states for retirement taxes.
17. Austin, Texas
- Total tax bill: $12,192
Austin is one of only two cities in the top 20 that don’t have any state income taxes adding to the overall bill. However, Austin residents earn a lot of money: The median income of $63,717 is the seventh-highest on this list, resulting in high federal and FICA taxes.
- Total tax bill: $12,568
A decent median income and high state income taxes push Minneapolis near the top 15 of this list when it comes to the total tax bill for residents. The city’s median income of $55,720 triggers a $2,747 state tax liability, resulting in a $12,568 total tax bill.
15. Long Beach, Calif.
- Total tax bill: $12,993
Long Beach racks up a much higher tax bill than its better-known neighbor, Los Angeles. It all comes down to income: Both cities face the same California tax rate, but Long Beach’s higher median income of $58,314 translates to a larger overall tax bill.
14. Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Total tax bill: $13,236
Colorado Springs residents earn about the same amount of money as residents in Long Beach, Calif., but overall taxes are slightly higher due to heavier state taxes. People in Colorado Springs will pay $2,693 in state taxes on $58,158 in median income — and the cost of living is quickly rising in this U.S. city.
13. Charlotte, N.C.
- Total tax bill: $13,294
The tax situation for Charlotte residents is about the same as that in Long Beach, Calif., or Colorado Springs, Colo. Median incomes of $58,202 result in $2,738 in state taxes as well as $13,294 in total income tax liability.
- Total tax bill: $13,901
The Mile High City has an average tax bill that lives up to Denver’s nickname. Median household incomes top $60,000, which means state, federal and FICA taxes end up approaching $14,000 — or nearly 25 percent of income.
11. Raleigh, N.C.
- Total tax bill: $14,455
The first city on GOBankingRates’ list with a total tax bill over $14,000, Raleigh doesn’t levy local income tax but imposes state taxes approaching $3,000 on median incomes of $61,505. Federal and FICA taxes bring the total tax bill for residents to $14,455.
- Total tax bill: $14,623
Boston residents enjoy the ninth-highest median income on this list, enough to push the city into the top 10 in terms of the most tax-saddled cities. High state income taxes of nearly $3,000 — adding to federal and FICA taxes — create a large overall tax liability for the average resident.
9. Oakland, Calif.
- Total tax bill: $14,916
Back on the West Coast, Oakland is one of four California cities occupying spots in the top 10 most taxed cities. A combination of high state taxes and above-average incomes saddles Oakland residents with nearly $15,000 in total income taxes.
8. New York
- Total tax bill: $14,987
New York is the only city in the top 10 that has local income taxes. Though it might come as a surprise, the median income in New York is the lowest among the top 15 cities on GOBankingRates’ list, which helps keep the overall tax burden low compared to cities in the top five.
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7. Portland, Ore.
- Total tax bill: $16,034
The tax burden increases dramatically in Portland compared to New York — it has one of the highest state income tax rates on this list. A median income of $61,532 in Portland is enough to trigger the third-highest state tax liability in this ranking at $4,490. The total tax bill of $16,034 is more than 26 percent of the average annual income.
- Total tax bill: $16,891
Even though Seattle is the only city in the top 15 with no state income tax, residents still have the sixth-highest overall tax liability among the largest cities in the country. There’s a good reason for this, however — Seattle has the third-highest median income on this list at $79,565, resulting in high federal and FICA taxes.
5. Virginia Beach, Va.
- Total tax bill: $17,763
The top five cities on this list all have hefty state income taxes and high average annual incomes, and Virginia Beach is no exception. Earning over $70,000 on average, Virginia Beach residents can expect to pay $3,561 in state income taxes in addition to high federal and FICA taxes.
4. San Diego
- Total tax bill: $18,143
With an annual median income of $71,535, residents in sunny San Diego don’t have to face any local income taxes. Instead, they encounter a combination of high state and federal income taxes in addition to FICA taxes.
3. Washington, D.C.
- Total tax bill: $20,686
The first city on GOBankingRates’ list to be burdened with an average tax bill of over $20,000, District of Columbia residents get to enjoy a median income of $77,649. Federal income taxes amount to over half of the expected total tax bill for those living in D.C.
2. San Francisco
- Total tax bill: $27,810
The top two cities on this list are in a league of their own, and they are both in California. With a whopping $27,810 in total income taxes, San Francisco residents face nearly $6,000 in state taxes and over $14,000 in federal taxes. The bright spot is that these taxes derive from a median income of $96,265 — though the San Francisco area is one of the worst offenders in terms of income inequality in the U.S.
1. San Jose, Calif.
- Total tax bill: $27,973
Topping the list, Silicon Valley gem San Jose has the highest overall tax bill among the largest cities in America — although it’s not much more than in nearby San Francisco. At $96,662, the top median income on this list is the culprit, because high incomes trigger heavy state, federal and FICA taxes.
San Jose residents might need every penny of their padded paychecks — it’s one of the major cities that cost the most to live comfortably.
The Most and Least Tax-Friendly Cities in America
The most expensive cities in America, such as San Jose and San Francisco, levy annual tax bills more than five times that of cities with lower taxes, such as Miami.
Take a look at the 10 best cities for taxes:
- New Orleans
- El Paso
Here are the 10 worst cities for taxes:
- San Jose
- San Francisco
- San Diego
- Virginia Beach
- New York
Although much of this tax discrepancy is due to higher median incomes, the worst cities also carry higher state tax rates. If you’re counting on a tax refund to cover some of your expenses, you might be better off living in a city with lower taxes.
Click through to discover the No. 1 thing Americans do with their tax refund.
More on Filing Taxes
- These Are the Best and Worst Countries for Taxes, Study Shows
- Craziest Ways People Have Legally Avoided Paying Taxes
- The Complete Guide to Filling Out Your W-4 Form
- Watch: How to Legally Cheat Your Tax Bracket
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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the average American’s tax bill in the 50 most populated U.S. cities by using household median income for each city as the basis for the tax bill, sourced from the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey. Based on their respective median incomes, GOBankingRates calculated each city’s approximate tax bill using SmartAsset’s income tax calculator. Income tax categories include federal income tax, FICA tax, state income tax, local income tax and total income taxes. Taxes were calculated based on the 2018-19 tax year and policies.
All information in this article is accurate at the time the study was conducted in January 2019.
About the Author
After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.