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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo takes his third oath of office, on Ellis Island in New York harbor, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo takes his third oath of office, on Ellis Island in New York harbor, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo takes his third oath of office, on Ellis Island in New York harbor, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP)

By Landon Allison April 12, 2021
John Pullano
By John Pullano April 12, 2021

Does New York state have the highest taxes in the United States?

If Your Time is short

• According to a comprehensive study by the Tax Foundation, New York does have the highest overall tax burden in the United States. 

• New Yorkers in certain economic situations may fare better than similarly situated people in “lower tax” states, given the mix of taxes in the different states.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, besieged by allegations of inappropriate behavior with women and an impeachment inquiry by the legislature, is defying pressure to step down.

Now, Republican lawmakers and the state party are seizing on Cuomo’s troubles to argue that after more than 14 years of Democrats running the state, it’s time for a change in New York politics.

In a mass email sent on March 17, New York State Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy warned of the "disastrous impacts of one-party rule in New York." (Only one Republican has won statewide office since 1994, George Pataki, who was last elected governor in 2002.)

One of the consequences of the longtime Democratic rule, Langworthy said, is a high tax rate.

"We pay the highest taxes in the nation, but criminals are shown more respect than small business owners and law-abiding New Yorkers," Langworthy wrote. "It's insanity. If we are going to stop the mass exodus of our family, friends, and neighbors, we need common sense to make a comeback in this state."

Is Langworthy right about New York having the highest taxes in the country? Using the broadest definition, his claim is reasonable, although what you would pay in taxes in New York depends heavily on your economic situation.

State and local tax burdens

Langworthy’s office told PolitiFact New York that he was referring to the total tax burden that New Yorkers bear. He shared several studies and articles that referenced comparisons of the 50 states’ overall tax burdens, which include taxes levied at the state and local level.

The Tax Foundation, for instance, calculates state and local tax burden by including income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes (such as on alcoholic beverages and tobacco, motor fuel and utilities), licensing taxes, corporate income taxes, estate taxes, and severance taxes, among others.

Jared Walczak, the Tax Foundation’s vice president of state projects, pointed to his group’s latest state and local tax burden report, from 2019. It shows that 14.1% of New Yorkers’ incomes go directly to state and local government, by far the highest of any state. 

Neighboring Connecticut is the second-highest, at 12.8%. The national median is 7.5%.

In addition, New Yorkers pay $9,987 in state and local taxes per capita, which also ranks first in the nation. Connecticut is also second highest in this category, at $9,705.

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The overall state and local tax burden in New York has fluctuated somewhat over time. In 2010, according to the Tax Foundation calculation, it was 13.2%. By 2015, it had risen to 14.7%, then fell to 14.3% in 2016, before settling at its current rate of 14.1%.

So Langworthy has strong support for his claim that New York is the highest-taxed state overall.

That said, "No state has the highest, or for that matter the lowest, tax for every tax," said Richard Auxier, senior policy associate at the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center

For instance, New York’s individual income tax rates are relatively high at a maximum of 8.82%, but they are not the highest, trailing several states, including California with 12.3%.

Meanwhile, New York’s sales tax rate, at 4%, and its motor fuel tax rate, at 24.6%, are relatively modest compared with other states. (Most local jurisdictions in New York do levy their own sales taxes, however, which typically pushes up the overall sales tax rate to about 8%.)

New York City's tax burden could increase further if legislators enact a budget agreement that includes a tax hike on New York City's millionaires. (The city also has its own sales tax of 4.5%.)

Different people have different tax burdens

The main caveat to keep in mind is that the degree of taxation depends on the household’s income level, as well as other factors such as how much they drive. 

A high-income person in New York, Auxier said, may pay higher taxes than a high-income person in a state without an income tax, such as Florida and Texas. But a low-income person could find New York to be a "low tax" state compared with other states that have higher sales taxes, which hit lower-income households more.

"If the representative wants to say New York already has relatively high taxes on high-income people he’s all good," said Auxier. "But when you talk about the entire state you’re talking about a lot of very different people with very different tax burdens."

Our ruling

Langworthy said that residents of New York state "pay the highest taxes in the nation."

According to the Tax Foundation’s comprehensive study, New York does have the highest overall tax burden in the United States. However, it’s important to note that New Yorkers in certain economic situations may fare better than similarly situated people in "lower tax" states, given the mix of taxes in the different states.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

Our Sources

Nick Langworthy, mass email, March 17, 2021

Tax Foundation, State-Local Tax Burden Rankings, March 18, 2021

Tax Foundation, New York Budget Gap: Options for Addressing New York Revenue Shortfall, December 8, 2020 

24/7 Wall Street, States Where Americans Are Paying the Most Taxes, March 13, 2020

FOX5 NY, New York has highest tax burden in U.S., June 24, 2020

PolitiFact, Is New York's tax burden 'among the highest in the nation? April 12, 2018

Email interview with Jared Walczak, Vice President of State Projects for the Tax Foundation, March 30, 2021

Email interview with Jessica Proud, communications correspondent for the NYGOP, March 24, 2021

Email interview with Richard Auxier, senior policy associate in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, April 6, 2021

Does New York state have the highest taxes in the United States?

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