Sales Tax Rates in Major U.S. Cities

 
 
April 11, 2012

Sales taxes in the United States are levied not only by state governments but also by city, county, Native American, and special district governments. In many cases these local sales taxes can have a profound impact on the total rate that consumers see at the check-out register.

Several private firms maintain databases of the sales tax rates in the 9,600 local jurisdictions in the United States that levy them. Here, we list the combined state and local sales tax rates in major U.S. cities, defined as all U.S. Census-designated incorporated places with a population over 200,000. This report complements our annual calculation of the average of all local sales taxes in each state.[1]

Highest and Lowest Sales Taxes Among Major Cities

Birmingham and Montgomery, both in Alabama, have the highest combined state and local sales tax rate among major U.S. cities, at 10 percent. They are followed by Chicago, Illinois; Glendale, Arizona; and Seattle, Washington, each with rates of 9.5 percent.

Portland, Oregon and Anchorage, Alaska have neither a state nor local sales tax. Honolulu, Hawaii has the third lowest sales tax among major cities with a rate of 4.5 percent; however, Hawaii's overly broad sales tax makes this not strictly comparable with other states. Five local jurisdictions in Virginia (Arlington, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach) are also relatively low on the list, levying just a 5 percent statewide sales tax.

The Role of Competition in Sales Tax

Avoidance of sales tax is most likely to occur in areas where there is a significant difference between two jurisdictions' sales tax rates. Research indicates that consumers can and do leave high-tax areas to make major purchases in low-tax areas, such as from cities to suburbs.[2] For example, strong evidence exists that Chicago-area consumers make major purchases in surrounding suburbs or online to avoid Chicago's high sales tax rates.[3] At the statewide level, businesses sometimes locate just outside the borders of high sales tax areas to avoid being subjected to their rates. The state of Delaware actually uses its state border welcome sign to remind motorists that Delaware is the "Home of Tax-Free Shopping."[4] State and local governments should be cautious about raising rates too high relative to their neighbors because doing so may lead to revenue losses despite the higher tax rate.

Sales Tax Bases: The Other Half of the Equation

This report ranks states and cities based on tax rates and does not account for differences in tax bases (the structure of sales taxes, defining what is taxable and non-taxable). States can vary greatly in this regard. For instance, most states exempt groceries from the sales tax, others tax groceries at a limited rate, and still others tax groceries at the same rate as all other products.[5] Some states exempt clothing or tax it at a reduced rate.[6] The taxation of services and business-to-business transactions also vary widely by state.[7] Experts generally agree that Hawaii has the broadest sales tax in the United States, taxing many products multiple times and, by one estimate, ultimately taxing 99.21 percent of the state's personal income. This base is far wider than the national median, where the sales tax base applies to 34.46 percent of personal income. [8]

Conclusion

Of course, sales taxes are just one part of an overall tax structure and should be considered in context. For example, Washington State has high sales taxes but no income tax; Oregon has no sales tax but high income taxes. While many factors influence business location and investment decisions, sales taxes are something within policymakers' control that can have immediate impacts. One gauge of competitiveness is how a city's sales tax rate compares to its neighbors.

City State State Rate Local Rate Total Rate Rank
Birmingham (a) Alabama 4.0% 6.0% 10.0% 1
Montgomery Alabama 4.0% 6.0% 10.0% 1
Chicago Illinois 6.25% 3.25% 9.5% 3
Glendale Arizona 6.6% 2.9% 9.5% 3
Seattle Washington 6.5% 3.0% 9.5% 3
Phoenix Arizona 6.6% 2.7% 9.3% 6
Memphis Tennessee 7.0% 2.25% 9.25% 7
Nashville Tennessee 7.0% 2.25% 9.25% 7
Tucson Arizona 6.6% 2.5% 9.1% 9
Mesa Arizona 6.6% 2.45% 9.05% 10
Baton Rouge Louisiana 4.0% 5.0% 9.0% 11
New Orleans (b) Louisiana 4.0% 5.0% 9.0% 11
Scottsdale Arizona 6.6% 2.35% 8.95% 13
New York New York 4.0% 4.875% 8.875% 14
Chandler Arizona 6.6% 2.2% 8.8% 15
Gilbert Arizona 6.6% 2.2% 8.8% 15
Buffalo New York 4.0% 4.75% 8.75% 17
Fremont (c) California 7.25% 1.5% 8.75% 17
Long Beach (c) California 7.25% 1.5% 8.75% 17
Los Angeles (c) California 7.25% 1.5% 8.75% 17
Oakland (c) California 7.25% 1.5% 8.75% 17
Spokane Washington 6.5% 2.2% 8.7% 22
Tulsa Oklahoma 4.5% 4.017% 8.517% 23
San Francisco (c) California 7.25% 1.25% 8.5% 24
Saint Louis Missouri 4.225% 4.266% 8.491% 25
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 4.5% 3.875% 8.375% 26
Austin (d) Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
Corpus Christi Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
Dallas Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
El Paso Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
Fort Worth Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
Garland Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
Houston Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
Irving Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
Laredo Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
Lubbock Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
Plano Texas 6.25% 2.0% 8.25% 27
San Jose (c) California 7.25% 1.0% 8.25% 27
San Antonio Texas 6.25% 1.875% 8.125% 39
Henderson Nevada 6.85% 1.25% 8.1% 40
Las Vegas Nevada 6.85% 1.25% 8.1% 40
North Las Vegas Nevada 6.85% 1.25% 8.1% 40
Arlington Texas 6.25% 1.75% 8.0% 43
Atlanta Georgia 4.0% 4.0% 8.0% 43
Aurora (e) Colorado 2.9% 5.1% 8.0% 43
Philadelphia Pennsylvania 6.0% 2.0% 8.0% 43
Rochester New York 4.0% 4.0% 8.0% 43
San Bernardino (c) California 7.25% 0.75% 8.0% 43
Stockton (c) California 7.25% 0.75% 8.0% 43
Fresno (c) California 7.25% 0.725% 7.975% 50
Kansas City (f) Missouri 4.225% 3.625% 7.85% 51
Minneapolis Minnesota 6.875% 0.9% 7.775% 52
Anaheim (c) California 7.25% 0.5% 7.75% 53
Chula Vista (c) California 7.25% 0.5% 7.75% 53
Cleveland Ohio 5.5% 2.25% 7.75% 53
Irvine (c) California 7.25% 0.5% 7.75% 53
Riverside (c) California 7.25% 0.5% 7.75% 53
Sacramento (c) California 7.25% 0.5% 7.75% 53
San Diego (c) California 7.25% 0.5% 7.75% 53
Santa Ana (c) California 7.25% 0.5% 7.75% 53
Reno Nevada 6.85% 0.875% 7.725% 61
Saint Paul Minnesota 6.875% 0.75% 7.625% 62
Denver Colorado 2.9% 4.72% 7.62% 63
Colorado Springs Colorado 2.9% 4.5% 7.4% 64
Modesto (c) California 7.25% 0.125% 7.375% 65
Wichita Kansas 6.3% 1.0% 7.3% 66
Charlotte North Carolina 4.75% 2.5% 7.25% 67
Bakersfield (c) California 7.25% 0.0% 7.25% 67
Durham North Carolina 4.75% 2.25% 7.0% 69
Fayetteville North Carolina 4.75% 2.25% 7.0% 69
Fort Wayne Indiana 7.0% 0.0% 7.0% 69
Indianapolis Indiana 7.0% 0.0% 7.0% 69
Jersey City New Jersey 7.0% 0.0% 7.0% 69
Lincoln Nebraska 5.5% 1.5% 7.0% 69
Newark New Jersey 7.0% 0.0% 7.0% 69
Omaha (g) Nebraska 5.5% 1.5% 7.0% 69
Hialeah Florida 6.0% 1.0% 7.0% 69
Jacksonville Florida 6.0% 1.0% 7.0% 69
Miami Florida 6.0% 1.0% 7.0% 69
Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 6.0% 1.0% 7.0% 69
Saint Petersburg Florida 6.0% 1.0% 7.0% 69
Tampa Florida 6.0% 1.0% 7.0% 69
Albuquerque (h) New Mexico 5.125% 1.8745% 6.9995% 83
Columbus (i) Ohio 5.5% 1.25% 6.75% 84
Greensboro North Carolina 4.75% 2.0% 6.75% 84
Raleigh North Carolina 4.75% 2.0% 6.75% 84
Toledo Ohio 5.5% 1.25% 6.75% 84
Winston-Salem North Carolina 4.75% 2.0% 6.75% 84
Cincinnati Ohio 5.5% 1.0% 6.5% 89
Orlando Florida 6.0% 0.5% 6.5% 89
Boston Massachusetts 6.25% 0.0% 6.25% 91
Baltimore Maryland 6.0% 0.0% 6.0% 92
Boise Idaho 6.0% 0.0% 6.0% 92
Des Moines Iowa 6.0% 0.0% 6.0% 92
Detroit Michigan 6.0% 0.0% 6.0% 92
Lexington Kentucky 6.0% 0.0% 6.0% 92
Louisville Kentucky 6.0% 0.0% 6.0% 92
Washington District of Columbia 6.0% 0.0% 6.0% 92
Milwaukee Wisconsin 5.0% 0.6% 5.6% 99
Madison Wisconsin 5.0% 0.5% 5.5% 100
Arlington (c), (j) Virginia 5.0% 0.0% 5.0% 101
Chesapeake (c) Virginia 5.0% 0.0% 5.0% 101
Norfolk Virginia 5.0% 0.0% 5.0% 101
Richmond (c) Virginia 5.0% 0.0% 5.0% 101
Virginia Beach (c) Virginia 5.0% 0.0% 5.0% 101
Honolulu (h), (k) Hawaii 4.0% 0.5% 4.5% 106
Anchorage Alaska 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 107
Portland Oregon 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 107

(a) Most of Birmingham is located within Jefferson County and is subject to a 10 percent sales tax. However, part of the city lies in Shelby County and is subject to a total rate of 9 percent.

(b) Most of New Orleans is located within Orleans Parish and is subject to a 9 percent sales tax. However, part of the city lies in Jefferson Parish  and is subject to a total rate of 8.75 percent.

(c) California (1%) and Virginia (1%) levy mandatory, statewide add-on sales taxes at the local level; these are included in their state sales tax rates.

(d) Most of Austin is located within Travis and Williamson counties and is subject to an 8.25 percent sales tax. However, part of the city lies in Hays County and is subject to a total rate of 7.25 percent.

(e) Most of Aurora is located within Arapahoe County and is subject to an 8 percent sales tax. However, part of the city lies in Adams County and is subject to a total rate of 8.5 percent.

(f) Most of Kansas City is located within Jackson County and is subject to a 7.85 percent sales tax. However, part of the city lies in Clay County and is subject to a total rate of 7.6 percent.

(g) Most of Omaha is located within Douglas County and is subject to a 7 percent sale tax. However, part of the city lies in Sarpy County and is subject to a total rate of 5.5 percent.

(h) The sales taxes in Hawaii and New Mexico have broad bases that include many services.

(i) Most of Columbus is located within Franklin County and is subject to a 6.75 percent sales tax. However, part of the city lies in Delaware County and is subject to a total rate of 7.25 percent.

(j) Arlington is a county without any incorporated municipalities. However, we treat it as a city here because it is included in the Census Bureau’s annual list of incorporated places.

(k) In the table, "Honolulu" refers to the incorporated portion of the larger City and County of Honolulu.

Sources: Sales Tax Clearinghouse, U.S. Census Bureau, Google Maps

 

[1] See Scott Drenkard, State & Local Sales Taxes in 2012, Tax Foundation Fiscal Fact No. 291, Feb. 14, 2012, at http://www.taxfoundation.org/legacy/show/27967.html.

[2] Mehmet Serkan Tosun & Mark Skidmore, Cross-Border Shopping and the Sales Tax: A Reexamination of Food Purchases in West Virginia (Working Paper, 2005), available at http://www.rri.wvu.edu/pdffiles/Tosunwp2005-7.pdf. See also Randolph T. Beard, Paula A. Gant, Richard P. Saba, Border-Crossing Sales, Tax Avoidance, and State Tax Policies: An Application to Alcohol, Southern Economic Journal, 64( 1), 293-306 (1997).

[3] Susan Chandler, The Sales Tax Sidestep, The Chicago Tribune, July 20, 2008, at http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-07-20/business/0807190001_1_sales-tax-tax-avoidance-tax-landscape

[4] Raise taxes, and they'll move, constituents tell one delegate, Marylandreporter.com, Aug. 3, 2011, http://marylandreporter.com/2011/08/03/raise-taxes-and-theyll-move-constituents-tell-one-delegate/

[5] For a list, see Tax Foundation Background Paper no. 62, 2012 State Business Tax Climate Index, http://www.taxfoundation.org/legacy/show/22661.html.

[6] State Sales Taxes on Clothing, Tax Foundation Tax Policy Blog (Jan. 24, 2012), http://taxfoundation.org/legacy/show/27915.html

[7] For a representative list, see Tax Foundation Background Paper no. 62, 2012 State Business Tax Climate Index, http://www.taxfoundation.org/legacy/show/22661.html.

[8] John Mikesell, The Disappearing Retail Sales Tax, State Tax Notes, Mar. 5, 2012, 777-791.

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