State Tax Snapshot: Some Counterintuitive Insights on Tax Rankings

Recently, the Tax Foundation released data about the migration of personal income between states. New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Ohio had the greatest total loss of income, while Florida, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, and Nevada had the greatest total gain in income. 

At first blush, this seems to make sense. Florida, Texas and Nevada do not impose an individual income tax, so it’s easy to envision taxpayers choosing to move to these states, perhaps fleeing the high tax rates in New York, California and New Jersey.

But rankings of other state-related data from’s “ Bloomberg Best (and Worst) ,”makes the causal connection seem more tenuous.  

For instance,  the states that lost the most income still have the most  high-income taxpayers.  California had the highest number of tax returns reporting income of $1 million or more, despite losing the second highest amount of personal income from the state.  New York, which lost the most income of all the states, took the second highest spot for most million-dollar filers. Florida and Texas took the next two spots in the rankings of million-dollar filers, which seems more in line with their position as the two states with the greatest increase in income.

Other correlations were also counterintuitive. In some cases there was reverse correlation between growth of personal income and gross domestic product. Three of the states which had the greatest growth in personal income also had the greatest loss of GDP.  Nevada had the greatest decrease of GDP in the nation, while Arizona had the second greatest. Florida had the fourth greatest decrease in GDP.

Things weren’t all bad in the states that lost the most personal income. All five of the states which lost the most personal income were also among the safest states. New Jersey had the least number of unintentional deaths out of all the states, while New York ranked 4th, California 5th, Illinois 6th, and Ohio 11th.

However, states that showed a greater loss of income also ranked as some of the worst for the unemployed, based on factors such as average weekly unemployment benefits, benefits as a percentage of income, and the unemployment rate. New Jersey ranked 2nd worst, California ranked 4th worst, New York ranked 7th worst, and Illinois ranked 12thworst.

By Melissa Fernley

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