By the Way, Residents Don’t Like High Taxes

Dr. Antony Davies, a member of CF’s Council of Scholars, and John Pulito add to the growing body of research showing higher state taxes drive out residents. Their new study, “Tax Rates and Migration,” finds lowering “high-income” tax thresholds, high overall state income taxes and high property taxes deplete populations.

Often known as “millionaire taxes,” states lower personal income tax thresholds to include more than millionaires in the highest bracket. For instance, anyone in Arizona who makes $150,000 or more a year pays the highest level of income tax, in Ohio it is $200,000. The evidence suggests people tend to leave states that lower “high-income” tax thresholds, the same way they leave states that raise tax rates. Pennsylvania does not have tax thresholds because the state levies a flat 3.07 percent personal income tax, but seven states don’t even have a state personal income tax.

However, Pennsylvania is a large offender in the property tax category. Property taxes have skyrocketed, increasing by $2.1 billion, or 26 percent, from 2004 to 2008—exceeding both inflation and student enrollment. The authors find property tax rates have a greater effect on out-migration than high-income tax rates.

For example, a one percentage point increase in the property-tax differential between two states has almost three times the effect on migration as does a one percentage point increase in the difference in high-income tax rates.

High levels of local and state taxation combined with heavy business taxation are a major reason Pennsylvania is losing residents to other states.