State income tax rates receive relatively little attention compared with federal income taxes, but they can still put a large dent in your wallet. How large depends on the amount you earn, as well as where you live and work.
How state income tax rates work
In general, states take one of three approaches to taxing residents and/or workers:
- They don’t tax income at all.
- They impose a flat tax. That means they tax all income, or dividends and interest only in some cases, at the same rate.
- They impose a progressive tax. That means they tax higher levels of income at higher rates.
If, like most people, you live and work in the same state, you probably need to file only one state return each year. But if you moved to another state during the year, lived in one state but worked in another or have, say, income-producing rental properties in multiple states, you might need to file more than one. And because the price of most tax software packages includes preparation and filing for only one state. Filing multiple state income tax returns often means paying extra.
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States with no income tax
Seven states currently don’t tax most income earned there:
- South Dakota.
The idea of not having to pay state income taxes could give you the urge to throw everything in a U-Haul and head for Dallas, but property taxes, sales taxes or other taxes and fees might be higher in those states.
States with flat income tax rates
Eleven states try to keep things simple by applying the same tax rate to most income. Of course, what counts as “income” depends on the state. In New Hampshire and Tennessee, for example, regular income is generally not subject to state tax, but a flat tax rate applies to dividends and interest income. And some states apply their tax rates to taxable income, while others use adjusted gross income.
|* On dividends and interest income only|
States with progressive tax structures
The remaining 32 states and the District of Columbia tax income much the way the federal government does: They tax higher levels of income at higher state income tax rates.
At the federal level, for example, a single taxpayer pays 10% on the first $9,700 of income, and then 12% of anything between $9,701 and $39,475, 22% of anything between $39,476 and $84,200, and so on. The rates stair-step to 24%, 32%, 35% and finally 37% for income of more than $510,301.
State income tax rates tend to be lower than federal tax rates. Many range between 1% and 10%. Some states tax as little as 0% on the first few thousand dollars of income.
High-tax states top out around 12%, and that’s often on top of property taxes, sales taxes, utility taxes, fuel taxes and whatever the taxpayer must send to the federal government.
The table below shows the number of tax brackets in the 32 states (plus D.C.) with progressive tax structures. Note that the dollar amounts in the income brackets apply to single filers; in many states, the income brackets double for joint returns. As is the case for federal returns, the amount you’ll pay to your state is also a function of your marital status, whether you have dependents and whether you qualify for tax deductions and credits.
|Tax rates||# of brackets||Lowest and Highest Tax Bracket Starting Points (Income)|
|District of Columbia||4%-8.95%||5||$10,000-$1,000,000|
To learn more about how your state income tax rates work, visit the website of your state’s taxation and revenue department, or the Federation of Tax Administrators.