This fall, Congress will debate whether to extend tax cuts adopted over the past decade. While there appears to be general agreement among policymakers that the major middle-class tax cuts should be extended — and significant debate about whether the tax cuts that benefit only the highest-income taxpayers ought to continue — there has been less attention paid to the fate of tax provisions that are targeted at lower-income working families.
This primer provides an overview of the Commonwealth’s tax system as well as clear information and analysis of how Massachusetts compares to other states and how our state’s tax system has changed over time. Also please see individual fact sheets on the income tax, the sales tax, tax fairness, and on the “Taxachusetts” label.
Expiring Federal Tax Cuts: Costs and Beneficiaries of Extending Cuts Targeted at Highest-Income Taxpayers
In the coming weeks, the U.S. House and Senate may debate whether to extend (or make permanent) all or only some of the Bush-era income tax cuts. The Congressional debate most likely will focus on whether to extend the tax cuts that affect only the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans–those households with adjusted gross income (AGI) above $200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married couples.
As part of a package of sales tax changes that went into effect in 2009, Massachusetts’ general sales tax rate was raised from 5 percent to 6.25 percent and alcoholic beverages were made newly subject to the general sales tax.
Determining who is affected most by the state’s tax system, as well as individual taxes, is important in considering the fairness of tax policy changes. While most taxes in Massachusetts have a fixed rate — for example, the state has a flat 5.3 percent income tax — different income groups are affected differently by each tax. These differences can be explained in terms of regressivity and progressivity–how taxes vary by income level.
The amount of state and local taxes paid in Massachusetts as a share of state personal income remained well below the U.S. average in Fiscal Year 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s newly updated survey of State and Local Government Finances.
In economic development legislation under consideration in the House, there are proposals for new corporate tax breaks. This Facts At a Glance provides information about the provisions. (Updated July 13, 2010)
National studies have consistently found that the overall level of business taxation is significantly lower in Massachusetts than in most states. One prominent study ranks Massachusetts 43rd for its overall business tax climate in Fiscal Year 2009.