D.C.: How Much Taxation (without representation)?

April 20, 2007

Taxation without representation has been the theme of the residents of the District of Columbia in their march towards obtaining a seat in the House of Representatives. And yesterday, the advocates of such representation received a large push in their direction. From the Washington Post:

A bill giving the District its first full seat in Congress cleared the House yesterday, marking the city’s biggest legislative victory in its quest for voting rights in nearly three decades.

Democrats on the House floor burst into applause, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) grabbed the arms of the District’s nonvoting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, as the 241 to 177 vote was announced.

“There was nothing but joy in the chamber this afternoon, because we knew we had given this bill the kind of send-off that can get it through the Senate,” Norton (D) said later.

But the bill faces considerable obstacles. Democrats don’t appear to have enough votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster, and the White House has threatened a veto. If the measure becomes law, it probably will be challenged in court.

Leaving aside the political and legal issues, below we answer the question of, “How much do residents of the District pay in taxes as part of running the federal government?”

The Tax Foundation projects that for 2007, the District will pay an overall effective federal tax rate of 23.8 percent, which would put them behind only Connecticut, Nevada, and New Jersey in terms of overall effective federal rates.

For 2004 (most recent year for which IRS state-by-state data is available), the District’s average federal tax burden (in dollar terms) was $23,802 per household. If it were to be given congressional representation, the District would rank 63rd out of 436 seats in the House, putting it in the top 15 percent of congressional districts in terms of average federal tax burden per household.

When counted as a county by itself, the District ranks 81st in the nation in average federal tax burden per household, putting it near the top 2 percent in that ranking. When ranking the District compared to other states in terms of average dollar amount of federal taxes, the District ranked 3rd (out of 51) in 2004.

Overall, the District pays about 40 percent more in federal taxes per household than the average household nationwide.

For more on state-by-state, county-by-county, congressional district-by-congressional district, and MSA-by-MSA breakdowns of federal tax burdens, check out this recent Tax Foundation publication entitled “Putting Taxes on the Map.”


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