Two years into the Pence administration, claims and counterclaims abound about its tax policy. Critics claim the policies shower unwarranted benefits on those who need it least at the expense of the middle class, while supporters claim the policies promote economic growth and prosperity.
I have taught tax topics at a university level for four decades and I have learned that any politician worth his or her salt can easily parse tax data to make about any case they’d like.
The Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis offers an interesting online tool for assessing a taxpayer’s lifetime state and local tax burden at www.whynotmove.org. This calculator allows one to assess the relative tax burden for any given household in Indiana compared to an identical household in another state.
Are there limitations? You betcha! For one thing, it does not account for cost of living (which a recent IBJ article indicated usually favors Indiana), nor does it count local amenities such as weather, beaches and mountains nor does it account for quality of public services.
Nevertheless, let me report some results from the calculator.
My reference household is a 30-year-old married couple with income of $80,000. They contribute $1,000 to charity, have $10,000 in retirement accounts, and will have $5,000 in other savings after they put $20,000 down on a $200,000 house and acquire a 30-year mortgage with an $887 monthly payment. The mortgage interest rate is assumed to be 4.26 percent, the average at www.bankrate.com.
I assume the couple faces these conditions in Indiana and comparison states. The calculator proceeds to answer the question: “How much discretionary income will we gain [or lose] each year for the rest of our lives by living in Indiana?”
It ends up that, compared to every state bordering Indiana, the couple is ahead in Indiana. The calculator estimates their annual discretionary income will be $2,776 more than in Illinois. The “annual Hoosier tax advantage” for the couple is $1,628 per year compared to Michigan, $639 over Ohio, and $229 over Kentucky.
I did the calculation for the couple comparing Indiana to California, Texas, Florida and New York. The results were a bit surprising, at least to me. The reference household is ahead in Indiana compared to New York and Texas by $1,761 and $581, but behind compared to California and Florida by $185 and $1,490.
Remember, this is estimated additional spending power per year because of different state and local taxes.
Why this couple? It seems to me a representative middle-income household the political class targets as voters.
Economic developers likely target young, high-income households.
To this end, I plugged the numbers for a 30-year-old, $250,000 annual income household buying a $600,000 home with 10 percent down, giving $10,000 a year to charity and having accumulated $50,000 in retirement and $50,000 in other savings after house purchase. How does Indiana’s tax structure look to the so-called creative class?
Again compared to all four surrounding states, Indiana imposes a lower annual tax burden on the household. The annual “Hoosier tax gain” is $8,097 compared to Illinois, $5,167 over Michigan, $3,836 over Ohio, and $2,190 over Kentucky.
Indiana imposes lower taxes than New York, California and Texas of $7,796, $4,877 and $1,516, but Florida still beats out Indiana by saving the household $4,107 in annual taxes.
My first surmise is that Indiana compares rather favorably with other states not only in business tax climate but in individual tax climate.•
Bohanon is an economics professor at Ball State University. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.