We have long advocated making the IRS sales tax deduction permanent, instead of having to renew it every year or so, because Nevada is one of only nine states with no state income tax to deduct, which has been deductible practically from the start of the federal income tax in 1913. It’s only fair.
Actually, the fairest thing to do would be to eliminate all itemized state and local tax deductions for IRS taxes, because residents of high-tax states — mostly run by tax loving Democrats — get to deduct a disproportionate share. This causes low-tax states — and Nevada still ranks nearer the bottom despite recent tax hikes — to essentially subsidize the higher-taxed states by paying a greater share of federal taxes.
Although it has been tried before — by Ronald Reagan in 1986 — in this election year a number of GOP presidential candidates are including in their tax reform packages elimination of state and local tax deductions.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Ben Carson all have proposed repealing this tax break, while Donald Trump, as usual, is vague on specifics.
Nevadans — along with residents of New Hampshire, Florida, Wyoming, Texas, South Dakota and Alaska — get to deduct about 1 percent or less of their adjusted gross income, while those who live in New York, Maryland, D.C. and California deduct more than 5 percent.
Not surprisingly, The Wall Street Journal reports that all of the top 10 high-tax states voted for Obama, while most of the lower-taxed states voted for Mitt Romney, with Nevada as one of the exceptions. Nearly one-third of the cost of the repeal would be borne by Californians and New Yorkers, both heavily Democratic states.
“If marginal tax rates were reduced in a revenue-neutral and distributionally neutral manner, the more than 70 percent of taxpayers who do not itemize would face lower combined federal and state income tax burdens,” write Heritage researchers Rachel Greszler and Kevin D. Dayaratna. “Additionally, this could lower overall taxes for some taxpayers who itemize but who have relatively lower incomes or live in lower-tax states.”
They concluded that the deductions subject federal tax revenues to the whims of state lawmakers and largely benefit wealthy taxpayers and those in high-tax states.
“The rationale for it is that since state and local taxes reduce individuals’ after-tax income, the income used to pay those taxes should be excluded from federal taxation. …” Greszler and Dayaratna write. “In practice, however, the deduction allows states to raise taxes higher than they otherwise would and has significant perverse distributional impacts, redistributing income from the poor to the rich and from people in low-tax states to people in high-tax states. Despite some efforts to eliminate it, the deduction for state and local taxes remains one of the largest deductions in the federal tax code.”
Using 2010 statistical data from the IRS, you find Californians who filed for state and local income tax deductions claimed deductions of $10,700 per return. Nevadans who filed for the state and local sales tax deduction claimed only $1,430 per return.
Calculated on a per capita basis, Californians claimed $2,116 in federal income tax deductions, while Nevadans claimed only $166 per person for sales tax deductions.
A version of this editorial appeared this past week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record. It ran as a column in the Elko Daily Free Press.