Census: N.H. Has Lightest State Tax

Wednesday, October 11th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — If you're looking to save on your state tax bill, New Hampshire might be the place for you — as long as you can take the cold, snowy winters.

In 1999, New Hampshire had the lowest per capita state tax burden in the country, $891 per person, Census Bureau figures released Wednesday show. It was $50 more than the previous year but still much lower than the national per capita tax, $1,835 per person.

Connecticut had the highest per capita state tax in 1999, $2,932 per person. Wanda Toth, an accountant in Fairfield, Conn., says her firm advises some clients to head north to New Hampshire to save on taxes after retirement.

``Their rates are very low,'' said Toth. ``But you have to be able to tolerate the weather up there.''

``When you are trying to raise a family, going to the store, buying clothes — for an average family, that's a lot of tax,'' said Toth, speaking as a mother rearing three teen-agers while paying Connecticut's taxes.

Nationally, overall state tax revenues for the 50 states rose 5 percent last year to $499.5 billion. Individual state income taxes made up the largest chunk, totaling $172.3 billion, or $633 per person.

After Connecticut, the next highest per capita taxes were in Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota and Massachusetts.

``Keep in mind that in states like Delaware, the state performs a lot of functions that in other states are done locally,'' Census statistician Dave Kellerman said.

New Hampshire was followed by South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana as states with the lowest per capita state taxes.

Edward Naile, of Deering, N.H., said New Hampshire's modest figure is a little misleading when calculating a resident's tax bill. Typically, he said, more than 75 percent of the taxes he pays each year are local levies.

Out-of-state residents still come, but for some harried workers and retirees, the tax advantage isn't a sufficient enough magnet, said Naile, a member of The Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers, an advocacy group for limited government and limited taxation.

``A lot of people are coming here to escape the tax burden. ... From Connecticut, a lot of people have summer homes here, and then they decide to stay,'' Naile said.

``It seems that the culture of high taxes continues,'' said Charles Wolpoff, a tax attorney and author of the book, ``The State Tax Report.''

``The key question for Connecticut citizens is, `Are they getting their money's worth?''' Wolpoff said.

Connecticut Gov. John Rowland's office says his Republican administration has cut $2 billion in taxes since he took office in 1995. In recent years, the state has reduced the income tax, business taxes and the gasoline tax.

One major reason Connecticut is at the top of the taxation list is that it leads the nation in per capita income, at more than $39,000. State leaders say taxes have been structured to hit the rich the hardest.

Much of the wealth is concentrated in affluent New York City suburbs in southwestern Connecticut, said accountant Toth.

``Taxes are going down, but when the economy's good, more people are working and people are making more money,'' said Ellen Schneider, spokeswoman for the state tax collector's office. ``Even though you have lower tax rates, you're going to end up paying a lot of money.''

That was no consolation to Gray Barrett of New Haven, Conn., as he pumped $5 worth of gas into his brown sedan.

``I can't afford to fill it up,'' Barrett said. ``Taxes are ridiculous. ... Most people aren't rich, aren't well-to-do.''

Toth is especially hearing the complaints now. She says she's busy filing this year's Connecticut state tax returns for residents who are waiting until Oct. 15 to file — the last day for a filing extension.

``Oh, we're hearing the complaints. Mostly, it's, `Where are the dollars going?'''


EDITOR'S NOTE — Associated Press Writer Diane Scarponi in New Haven, Conn., contributed to this story.

On the Net: Census Bureau site: http://www.census.gov/

Connecticut Department of Revenue Services commissioner: http://www.drs.state.ct.us/Commmessage/Comm.html

Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers: http://www.cnht.org/