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It’s no secret that Americans have been relocating in droves during the pandemic, fleeing expensive cities and states in search of places that are more affordable and spacious.
But economizing your finances goes beyond finding a new home with a reasonable cost-of-living. Another option: Moving to a state with no income tax.
According to the Tax Foundation, eight states currently don’t tax residents’ personal income: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming — and for the first time in 2021 — Tennessee. Meanwhile, New Hampshire doesn’t tax wages, though it does tax investment earnings and dividends.
While moving to one of these tax-friendly states might seem like the ultimate way to reduce your taxes, you might not always end up saving more money in the long run.
“All states need money,” says Mark Steber, CPA, senior vice president and chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt. “There are sales taxes, some states have property taxes and fuel taxes, then there are state, city and local taxes. Not every state with no income tax has a low sales tax. It’s a matter of circumstances.”
Here’s what you need to know about the nine states with no income tax, including the individual tax burden you can expect there when accounting for other levies (according to the Tax Foundation’s estimates), and what you should take into consideration before making it the destination on your next migration.
9 states with no income tax:
Alaska is the state with the lowest tax burden, considering that it has no state income tax or sales tax (though local areas are still allowed to charge one). However, its remote location can make the state a more expensive place to live and boasts one of the highest corporate tax rates in the country (9.4 percent).
- Total tax burden: 5.8 percent
- Rank (from most to least affordable): 1
In the absence of an income tax, Florida relies heavily on sales taxes and property taxes. Florida is a popular tax and retirement haven, but the cost of living is above average, according to research from the Council for Community and Economic Research. And with an average state and local sales tax rate of 7.01 percent (the 27th highest in the nation), consumers might end up paying levies in other ways.
- Total tax burden: 8.8 percent
- Rank (from most to least affordable): 7
Nevada’s treasury collects much of its revenue from above-average sales taxes and fees, much of it gambling-related. With a tourism-driven economy, however, out-of-state visitors may end up bearing the brunt of those costs.
- Total tax burden: 9.7 percent
- Rank (from most to least affordable): 21 (tied with New Hampshire)
New Hampshire doesn’t tax wage income and it has no sales tax, but it does collect a 5 percent tax on interest and dividend income that exceeds $2,400 per individual annually, or $4,800 for joint filers. Some exemptions are available for elderly, blind and disabled residents. Meanwhile, the state has the third highest property tax rate in the country (1.89 percent).
- Total tax burden: 9.7 percent
- Rank (from most to least affordable): 21 (tied with Nevada)
Not only does South Dakota not collect income taxes, its average state sales tax rate is 4.5 percent, among the lowest in the country.
But municipalities can collect up to another 1 to 2 percent on top of that. The state’s Department of Revenue collects a variety of special taxes, such as excise taxes on cigarettes and bank franchise taxes. The Tax Foundation estimates that South Dakota’s actual sales tax rate — when combined with other local and municipal levies — averages out to be 6.4 percent.
- Total tax burden: 9.1 percent
- Rank (from most to least affordable): 13
Tennessee residents don’t have to pay state taxes on their wages. The Volunteer State used to tax dividends and interest in a levy known as the “Hall Tax,” but that was officially phased out in 2021 for the 2022 tax year. However, Tennessee has the second highest state and local sales tax rate in the country at 9.55 percent.
- Total tax burden: 7 percent
- Rank (from most to least affordable): 2 (tied with Wyoming)
Texas doesn’t have an income tax, but it does levy a state sales tax of 6.25 percent, and local jurisdictions can levy up to 1.94 percent in additional taxes, for a combined rate of 8.19 percent, the 14th highest in the country. Texas has the sixth highest property tax rate of 1.6 percent.
- Total tax burden: 8 percent
- Rank (from most to least affordable): 3
Washington doesn’t charge an income tax, but it ranks ninth highest in the nation for state sales taxes. A 6.5 percent state sales tax combined with city and or municipal sales-tax rates result in a sales tax of up to 9.29 percent.
- Total tax burden: 9.8 percent
- Rank (from most to least affordable): 23
In addition to having no personal state income tax, Wyoming levies no corporate income tax. It has a 4 percent sales tax and an average local sales tax of 1.34 percent, for a combined average sales tax rate of 5.34 percent.
- Total tax burden: 7 percent
- Rank (from most to least affordable): 2 (tied with Tennessee)
Should you move to a state with no income tax?
If you’re trying to determine whether moving to a state with no income tax is financially worth it, start by taking a look at your most recent tax return. Calculate how much you paid in state income taxes (some states have a flat rate, while others have a graduated-rate) and determine your individual income tax rate. Then, compare that total with what you would be paying in the state where you wish to move.
But those calculations should be the tip of the iceberg, according to Steber. Compare the property tax and sales tax rates of both locations, along with cost-of-living considerations, such as housing and food.
Familial and educational considerations might matter as well, which might not be immediately on your radar. Steber, for instance, ended up having to pay out-of-state tuition to his childrens’ colleges back in Alabama after the family moved across state lines to Florida.
“I would tell you, if I had stayed in Alabama, I wouldn’t pay out-of-state tuition, which would’ve offset the income tax that I would’ve had,” he says.
If you’re living in a state with a high tax burden — such as California, Illinois, New Jersey or New York — you might especially stand to save by moving to a tax-friendly state, though be wary about making it the sole reason for your move.
“You have to look at the whole picture,” Steber says. “Start with your own simple analysis and have a tax pro kick the tires. Taxes are simply never a reason to make a total financial decision.”
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Note: Kay Bell wrote a previous version of this story.