Year Share of income paid for state and local taxes in S.C.
Source: The Tax Foundation
South Carolina taxpayers may feel like they're paying too much, but taxpayers in only eight other states pay less.
That's according to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Tax Foundation, which released its report Wednesday.
The state's taxpayers paid about 8.3 percent of their income on state and local taxes in 2011, the most recent data available. The national average was 9.8 percent.
Several other Southern states also ranked among those having the lowest tax burdens, including Tennessee (7.6 percent); Louisiana (7.6 percent); Alabama (8.3 percent); Mississippi (8.4 percent); and Georgia (8.8 percent).
That means state and local governments also are getting significantly less money because incomes also tend to be lower in those states. South Carolina's $33,603 average per capita income ranks 46th in the country.
Still, there's not much debate in Columbia this election year about increasing the state's tax burden -with the possible exception of lawmakers trying to find more money for highway building and maintenance. In recent years, the state's tax debate has revolved more around eliminating loopholes and making state taxes fairer and flatter.
On a local level, however, there has been more activity. Last year, the city of Charleston raised property taxes to pay for more police at schools, while Mount Pleasant is considering its first property tax increase in more than a decade to pay for needed drainage and road repairs.
Tax Foundation economist Liz Malm said the annual estimate of state-local taxes is designed to help voters in each state make informed judgments about the costs and effectiveness of their state, city and county governments.
Ashley Landess, director of the conservative-leaning S.C. Policy Council said Wednesday the foundation's work is credible, but she has not had time to review its latest report. Landess noted the South Carolina has relatively high income and sales taxes and cautioned that one must consider many factors, such as fees, before concluding that South Carolina is truly a low-tax state.
While people may complain about doing their federal income taxes, the average taxpayer pays almost $3 to state and local governments for every $1 in federal taxes paid.
The foundation's report said that during the 2011 fiscal year, state-local tax burdens decreased on average, largely because incomes rose slightly more than tax rates. For instance, South Carolina's tax burden was 8.6 percent in 2010 and 8.7 percent in 2009.
It also is down dramatically from 1990, when South Carolina's tax burden was 9.5 percent .
Not all Southern states ranked at the bottom: North Carolina was right at the national average, while Florida (9.2 percent) and Virginia (9.2 percent) were close.
The lowest tax burdens are found in Wyoming (6.9 percent); Alaska (7.0 percent); South Dakota (7.1 percent); and Texas (7.5 percent), while Nevada and New Hampshire also rank below South Carolina.
The highest tax burdens are found in New York (12.6 percent); New Jersey (12.3 percent); Connecticut (11.9 percent); California (11.4 percent) and Wisconsin (11.0 percent).
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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