Everything’s Bigger in Texas — Including Taxes, Which Are Outpacing California

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Texas has never lacked self-belief, especially when it comes to touting tax advantages it has over other states. Well, not so fast, Lone Star Staters — you could be paying higher taxes than even Californians.

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As the Houston Chronicle reported, a graphic shared on Reddit’s main economic forum illustrated how the vast majority of Texans pay more in taxes than Californians do. That’s the case even though Texas does not levy a state income tax on individuals (and California does).

The graphic contained 2018 data from the nonprofit Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), which gathered stats from a variety of sources: IRS income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey.

According to the ITEP’s research, Texans whose salaries fall into the lowest 20% of income earners — those who earn less than $20,900 a year — pay about 13% of their income in state and local taxes. By comparison, Californians in the bottom 20% (who earn less than $23,200 annually) pay a rate of 10.5%.

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That’s not the only income group where taxes are higher in Texas than California, either: The middle 20% of earners in Texas — making $35,800 to $56,000 a year — pay 9.7% in state and local taxes .Meanwhile, it’s 8.9% for middle income earners in Californian, whose pay ranges from $39,100 to $62,300 a year.

About the only Texans who fare better than Californians are the wealthy. The top 1% of earners in Texas — those making $617,900 or more annually — only pay 3.1% of their income in state and local taxes. That compares to a rate of 12.4% for top earners in California, who make $714,400 or more per year.

Although the ITEP data is from four years ago, taxes in Texas are pretty much the same now as they were then, according to Robert Peroni, a tax professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

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As the Chronicle noted, ITEP ranked Texas as the second-most regressive tax state behind Washington. That’s because low-income taxpayers pay a disproportionate share of the tax burden. California ranked as the most progressive tax state because its higher-income residents tend to pay higher tax rates.

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“When they say Texas is a very regressive state, it means if you’re low income, you spend 100 percent of it,” Peroni told the Chronicle. “Some of it is tax-exempt, but most of that spending is taxed by sales tax.”

Not surprisingly, Californians have had a field day with the Reddit post — including Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who tweeted: “Hey Texans, come over to California to pay lower taxes. And we have great weather.”

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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