SALT LAKE CITY — While Tax Day is among the more stressful — and sometimes expensive — times of the year for taxpayers in Utah and nationwide, the true cost of freedom from income taxes typically comes days afterward.
The Tax Foundation, a nonprofit tax policy research organization based in Washington, D.C., reported Tuesday that Americans work nearly five months a year to earn enough to cover the state, local and federal taxes owed collectively. The information was calculated using income and tax data to determine when each state — and the country as a whole — has paid off its total tax burden.
Nationally, Tax Freedom Day 2017 falls on April 23 — 113 days into the year. The date is derived by taking all federal, state and local taxes — individual as well as payroll, sales and excise, corporate and property taxes — and dividing by the nation’s income, explained Scott Drenkard, director of state projects for the Tax Foundation.
This year, Tax Freedom Day in Utah falls on April 21.
"(Utah) is a little bit better than average, a little before the national day," Drenkard said.
The total tax burden carried by residents of each state varies considerably due to fluctuating state tax policies and the progressivity of the federal tax system, he said.
For states with higher incomes and higher taxes, Tax Freedom Day arrives later, Drenkard said.
This year, Connecticut will be last on May 21, with New Jersey on May 13 and New York on May 11. In contrast, residents of Mississippi have the lowest average tax burden, with Tax Freedom Day arriving on April 5, followed by Tennessee on April 7 and South Dakota on April 8, according to the report.
The significance of Tax Freedom Day for taxpayers and lawmakers represents how long Americans have to work to pay the nation’s tax burden, Drenkard said. In 2017, Americans will pay more than $5.1 trillion in taxes — or 31 percent of the nation’s income, including $1.6 trillion in state and local taxes, and $3.5 trillion in federal taxes, he said.
"The United States federal income tax is one of the most progressive of the federal income taxes of all big, large, developed nations (in the world)," Drenkard said.
As a whole, Americans will spend more on taxes this year than on food, clothing and shelter combined, he noted.
Over the past 15 years, federal expenses have exceeded federal revenues, with the budget deficit surpassing $1 trillion from 2009 to 2012, the Tax Foundation reported. The deficit is expected to shrink slightly in 2017, from $657 billion to $612 billion, Drenkard explained.
If yearly federal borrowing was included, which would represent future taxes owed, Tax Freedom Day would occur on May 7 — 14 days later, he said.