PLEASE DO NOT CITE—AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS STUDY IS AVAILABLE. Visit https://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. foundation.org/tax-topics/state-tax-and-spending-policy.
Special Report No. 132
Executive Summary This annual study clarifies the geographical patterns of income redistribution that federal tax and spending policies cause each year. The results of the study have been controversial for years because they show that the nation is not only redistributing income from the prosperous to the poor, but from the middle-income residents of high-cost states to the middle-income residents of low-cost states.
Thanks to a steeply progressive federal income tax, states with a high average cost of living and commensurately higher incomes pay vastly higher federal taxes, payments that are unlikely ever to be matched by federal spending directed to those states. Ironically, most of these high-cost, high-paying states are the so-called blue states that have consistently supported a more steeply 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. system.
Federal taxes of all kinds are tabulated, i.e., income, social insurance and excise taxAn excise tax is a tax imposed on a specific good or activity. Excise taxes are commonly levied on cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, soda, gasoline, insurance premiums, amusement activities, and betting, and typically make up a relatively small and volatile portion of state and local and, to a lesser extent, federal tax collections. es on individuals and businesses, and a total figure is calculated for how much each state sends to Washington, DC. This figure is compared to the flow of federal funds back to each state, bringing the two sides of federal fiscal operations together.
In FY 2003, New Mexico, Alaska, Mississippi, West Virginia and North Dakota received substantially more from the federal government than they paid in taxes, while New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Minnesota and Nevada paid much more in taxes than they received in spending. Tax burdens for the current fiscal year (2004) are presented at the end of the report, but data from FY 2003 are used in the comparison of taxes to spending because the most recent spending data from the Census Bureau is for 2003.Share