Utah taxes may have dropped a notch to 11th-highest in the nation in 1989, but the lower ranking is nothing to brag about, according to the state's oldest tax-watchdog organization.
The Utah Taxpayers Association, which has kept an eye on tax rates since 1922, released Friday its annual ranking of states according to the amount of state and local taxes paid as a percentage of personal income.Utahns turned over 11.45 percent of their earnings to state and local tax collectors in the fiscal year that ended July 1, 1989, the most current year for which information is available.
That's compared to 10.73 percent nationally and just 7.95 percent in the lowest-ranked state, New Hampshire. The state with the highest percentage of personal income going for taxes is Alaska, 18.12 percent.
Measured in dollars, Utahns paid $124.11 in state and local taxes for every $1,000 they earned. That's more than the national average of $115.67 for every $1,000 in personal income.
Alaskans earned their ranking of No. 1 by paying $206.56 in state and local taxes for every $1,000 in personal income, while New Hampshire residents had to come up with just $84.55 for every $1,000 they made.
Utah has reached as high as 7th in the annual rankings, when the tax bite hit 11.76 percent in 1986 and when it climbed beyond 12 percent the following year.
The fall to 11th place in the rankings, which are calculated using information from the federal government, isn't far enough for the Utah Taxpayers Association although they don't expect further improvement anytime soon.
"That's not a favorable position," Howard Stephenson, association spokesman, said. "It's certainly nothing to brag about and whether it will change is anybody's guess."
Gov. Norm Bangerter's chief of staff, Bud Scruggs, also predicted no improvement in the state's standing in the forseeable future because education and other needs will continue to outstrip the amount of taxes available to fund them.
"The reason we're 11th in the nation is not because we waste money. It's because we have a lot of needs," Scruggs said, adding other surveys rank Utah among the states spending the least on government services per capita.
"Being 11th in the nation is not something to be proud of. But it's not something we should be ashamed of, either," he said. "I think what it tells you is that Utahns are giving all they can and all they should be asked to give."Stephenson attributed the drop to the tax cuts passed by the Legislature in 1988 and 1989, when lawmakers restored the deduction on state income tax returns for federal taxes paid first to one-third and then to one-half.
Income tax rebates, also part of the Legislature's effort to deal with the tax surpluses that accumulated after 1987's record tax increase, were not included in the calculations.
Although the millions of dollars in checks issued to Utahns would have reduced the state's ranking further, Stephenson said they weren't counted because the association considers them a one-time rebate rather than a reduction.
The Utah Taxpayers Association rankings also compared Utah to other states according to the amount of property, sales and income taxes collected per $1,000 per personal income.
Utahns ranked 25th in the amount of property taxes paid, $34.77 per $1,000 of personal income, compared to as much as $66.21 for Alaskans and as little as $11.46 for Alabamans.
Utahns hit 11th again in state sales taxes, $28.74 per $1,000 earned, while Hawaiians were No. 1 with a state sales tax bill of $55.71 for every $1,000 in income. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon have no state sales tax.
The worst showing for Utahns came in state income taxes, where they ranked 10th with a bill of $30.89 per $1,000 made. That was still better than Oregonians, who ranked No. 1 at $41.90 for every $1,000 they earned.
Nevada, Wyoming and several other states have no personal income taxes.