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Five States Win Tax Foundation Tax Information Transparency Honors

2 min readBy: Joseph Bishop-Henchman

I’m pleased to announce that we are today honoring five states for taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. information transparency. In a new report, we reveal the results of two tests we ran in March: (1) we counted how many clicks it took to find 2012 income tax rates from the agency’s website homepage, and (2) we assessed whether the state had made available (and findable in a spot check by our analyst) the 2012 and 2013 tax rates, tax table, and tax forms.

For clicks, in five states (Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, and North Carolina), it takes taxpayers five clicks to find this information from the homepage. Taxpayers in three states (Colorado, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania) can get it in two clicks. And while nearly all states had most of the 2012 and 2013 tax information, our analysts were able to find all of this information only in five states (Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia; some of these states have one-rate taxes, making tax tables unnecessary). The vast majority of state revenue websites do not yet provide 2013 tax rate information even though 2013 income tax is currently being withheld from taxpayers’ paychecks.

Transparency can be a difficult thing to quantify, and we admit that these two tests are not a perfect proxy. However, poor transparency of basic tax information imposes real costs on taxpayers. The time and money an individual spends complying with taxes prevents them from productively spending these resources elsewhere. Ideally, a taxpayer should be able to quickly and easily locate and understand all taxes owed and with that information make informed allocative decisions and budgeting plans. We are consequently pleased to recognize:

  • the Colorado Department of Revenue,
  • the Illinois Department of Revenue,
  • the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue,
  • the Utah State Tax Commission, and
  • the Virginia Department of Taxation.

Each passed both tests (three clicks or less for finding information and having all 2012 and 2013 information available online). We hope all state tax authorities will follow their lead in making basic information easily accessible to taxpayers.

See full information for each state here.