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Maryland’s Income Tax Already Among Nation’s Highest

2 min readBy: Curtis S. Dubay

According to a story on the cover of today’s Washington Post, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and other lawmakers are pushing to increase the state income 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. . From the story:

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and leading lawmakers say they are giving serious consideration to overhauling the state’s tax bracketA tax bracket is the range of incomes taxed at given rates, which typically differ depending on filing status. In a progressive individual or corporate income tax system, rates rise as income increases. There are seven federal individual income tax brackets; the federal corporate income tax system is flat. s, which are among the flattest in the nation. “I’m in favor of progressive taxA progressive tax is one where the average tax burden increases with income. High-income families pay a disproportionate share of the tax burden, while low- and middle-income taxpayers shoulder a relatively small tax burden. ation, where people who make a lot more pay more,” O’Malley told reporters recently.

The Post’s story compares Maryland’s individual income taxAn individual income tax (or personal income tax) is levied on the wages, salaries, investments, or other forms of income an individual or household earns. The U.S. imposes a progressive income tax where rates increase with income. The Federal Income Tax was established in 1913 with the ratification of the 16th Amendment. Though barely 100 years old, individual income taxes are the largest source of tax revenue in the U.S. structure to those in Washington, DC, Virginia, Vermont, California and New Jersey, citing Tax Foundation data. None of those states have local income taxes, though, and Maryland’s are the highest in the nation.

Maryland taxpayers on average pay a little under 3 percent in local income taxes, according to the Maryland Comptroller. Added on to the top state rate of 4.75, Marylanders are paying an income tax rate in the neighborhood of 7.5 percent. That means only 13 states have a higher top income tax rate than Maryland.

Regionally, Maryland has a significantly higher rate than any of its neighbors: Pennsylvania (3.59 percent), Virginia (5.75 percent), Delaware (5.95 percent), and West Virginia (6.5 percent). Only DC is higher at 8.7 percent. Maryland’s high combined state and local income tax rate is the main reason its individual income tax was ranked below average at 35th in our 2007 State Business Tax Climate Index.

As the new Democratic power base in Maryland looks to increase the progressivity of the state’s tax code, the best way for them to do so without damaging the state’s economic competitiveness is to cut taxes on low wages-not raise them on high wages.

Governor O’Malley is right that the three lower rates (2.0 percent on the first $1,000, 3.0 percent on the next $1,000 and 4.0 percent the next $1,000) are silly. Those brackets could be abolished and replaced with a zero rate-or a larger standard deductionThe standard deduction reduces a taxpayer’s taxable income by a set amount determined by the government. It was nearly doubled for all classes of filers by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) as an incentive for taxpayers not to itemize deductions when filing their federal income taxes. or personal exemption; those are currently $2,000 and $2,400 respectively for single taxpayers with one exemption. For instance, an exemption could be offered that exempts all income below a certain amount– $10,712 for instance– which is the amount someone would earn working a minimum wage job 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.

Raising taxes on Maryland taxpayers will only serve to drive people and businesses to other states, especially when lower-tax destinations are in such close proximity. Ultimately, Maryland lawmakers need to restrain spending or they will always be looking for more revenue.