Entries in States (6)


New Jersey No Longer Worst for Businesses

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Tax Foundation, a non-profit conservative-leaning tax research group, is out Tuesday with its ranking of states most and least friendly to business. Gov. Chris Christie will be pleased to learn that New Jersey is no longer the most unfriendly for business -- neighboring New York has stolen that honor.

“The lesson is simple: a state that raises sufficient revenue without one of the major taxes will, all things being equal, have an advantage over those states that levy every tax in the state tax collector’s arsenal,” the foundation said on its website.

Topping the list of the 10 best states for business friendliness include:

  • Wyoming
  • South Dakota
  • Nevada
  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Washington
  • New Hampshire
  • Montana
  • Texas
  • Utah

Generally these states did best, by the foundation’s reckoning, because they “do without one or more of the major taxes: the corporate tax, the individual income tax, or the sales tax.”

“Wyoming, Nevada, and South Dakota have no corporate or individual income tax; Alaska has no individual income or state-level sales tax; Florida has no individual income tax; and New Hampshire and Montana have no sales tax,” the group notes.

The 10 lowest-ranked, or worst, states in terms of business friendliness are:

  • Maryland
  • Iowa
  • Wisconsin
  • North Carolina
  • Minnesota
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • California
  • New Jersey
  • New York

New York landed at the bottom this year because of its higher individual income tax and near-worst unemployment insurance and property taxes.

Maine moved up the rankings because it repealed an alternative minimum tax. Michigan swapped out some business taxes and put in a flat six percent corporate income tax “that is largely free of special tax preferences,” the group said, moving the state up in the rankings.

The 2013 index is a picture of each state’s tax climate as of July 1, 2012.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Five Most Generous States for Charities Mostly Lean Republican

ABC News/Ma'ayan Rosenzweig(NEW YORK) -- Which states are more generous about giving money to charities?  Red or blue states?  A report by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, "How America Gives," uses the most recent available IRS data from 2008 to find out.

The answer, according to the report, is that people in Republican-leaning states give somewhat more, mostly because of religious ties.  The Chronicle studied individual tax returns and studied demographic characteristics such as religion and political affiliation.  The report found that states that were in favor of the 2008 presidential candidate John McCain gave higher percentages of discretionary income toward charities.

The state of Utah, where a majority of residents are Mormon and encouraged to give 10 percent of their income to the church, had the highest percentage -- 10.6 percent.  Residents in Utah had an estimated median discretionary income of $49,551.

The state of Utah shows how important religion is to giving, said Peter Panepento, the Chronicle of Philanthropy's assistant managing editor.  In Utah, the estimated median contribution was $5,255, as reported to the IRS on itemized tax returns.

The District of Columbia followed Utah, with people there giving an average of 7.7 percent of their salaries to charity.  The district, the only ranking in the top five that swung Democrat in the last presidential election, has an estimated median discretionary income of $39,045.

After religion, diversity, especially in an urban area such as the District of Columbia, is a major factor affecting philanthropy.  In other words, where and with whom someone lives affects his or her giving habits, Panepento said.

People who made over $200,000 a year and lived in wealthier ZIP codes gave in lower numbers than those in more economically diverse ZIP codes, the Chronicle found.

Mississippi, a Bible-belt state, ranked third in philanthropic giving, another example of the relationship between giving and religion.  The state had an estimated median contribution of $3,998 with a giving percentage of 7.2 percent of income.  The estimated median discretionary income was $55,264.

The state of Alabama ranked fourth with a giving percentage of 7.1 percent and an estimated median giving contribution of $4,007.  The estimated median income for residents is $56,493.

Also in the Bible belt, Alabama has strong religious ties that encourage people to give more of their income to the church and charitable causes.

The state of Tennessee ranked fifth, with a giving rate of 6.6 percent and a median contribution of $3,807.  The median discretionary income is $58,097.

A number of religious denominations are headquartered in Tennessee, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The Silliest and Most Outrageous Taxes in America

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you take the tax codes of the 50 states and apply a magnifying glass, you'll find that here and there, hidden amongst the small print, are specimens that many would consider outrageous.

Take for example, a tax on fur, nudity or bagels (if sliced, but not if intact).

New tax marvels are being born daily.  New York tax expert Barbara Weltman, publisher of Big Ideas for Small Business, points to one new one, imposed by Mississippi on salt produced from that state's lands or waters.

"Unique, weird taxes are states' creative ways to increase revenue in a way consistent with their population and products," she says.  Some oddities arise from the circumstances of the moment: The feds, for example, have begun taxing arrows and other "archery products" -- an innovation she suspects has arisen in light of the popularity of The Hunger Games.

Here are some of the wildest taxes levied by the 50 states -- some supplied by Weltman, some coaxed from states' websites and others found by eFile, GoBanking, TurboTax/Intuit and the Corporate Tax Network:

Blueberries: Maine produces all but one percent of the wild blueberries sold nationally and taxes them every which way: Anyone growing, handling, processing, selling or purchasing blueberries pays a tax of a penny-and-a-half per pound.

Fur: Minnesota imposes a tax of 6.5 percent on the sale of fur apparel.

Nudity: Any business in Utah employing "nude or partially nude" workers must pay a tax of 10 percent on services sold to patrons.

Tattoos: Arkansas doesn't just tax tattoos (six percent of sales); the Natural State applies the same tax to body piercings and electrolysis.

Playing Cards: In Alabama, your purchase of a deck of playing cards will be subject to a tax of 10 cents per pack.

Candy, Sodas: Illinois applies to candy a surcharge of five percent over and above its 1.25 percent sales tax on food.  But candy isn't candy -- at least not for tax purposes -- if it contains flour.  Malted milk balls thus would be exempt.  In Chicago, a soda served from a soda fountain is taxed nine percent; the same soda drunk from a bottle or a can is taxed 3 percent.

Litigation: New York taxes litigation; any New Yorker involved in criminal or civil proceedings pays a flat $25.

Bagels, Pets: In Durham, N.C., residents who own a cat or dog must pay tax, since the state considers pets to be personal property no different from, say, a TV or stereo.  The tax on spayed or neutered pets is $10, but on animals intact, it is $75.  This is the reverse of New York's bagel tax, which applies an eight cent charge to altered bagels (ones sliced and schmeered) but not to ones uncut.

Balloon Rides: Kansas wisely distinguishes between tethered balloons and balloons set free.  The latter, says, "are considered a legitimate form of air transportation."  Thus rides in the former are taxed as amusements, rides in the latter are not.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Improvement in State Unemployment Slowed in May

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics(WASHINGTON) -- The modest improvement in the nation's jobs situation slowed during May in much of the country, according to a new report released on Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Regional and State Employment report found that 24 states recorded unemployment rate decreases, while 13 states and the District of Columbia registered rate increases, and 13 states had no rate change at all.

During the past year, however, the situation has been markedly improved.  Between May 2010 and May 2011, 43 states and Washington, D.C. saw their unemployment rates drop.

Furthermore, on a regional basis, all four sections of the country saw significant year-over-year decreases in the unemployment rate.  The Midwest topped the drops with 1.5 percent, followed by the Northeast with 0.8 percent, the West with 0.7 percent and the South 0.5.

Overall, the West reported the highest regional unemployment rate in May with 10.3 percent, while the Northeast and Midwest recorded the lowest rates, with 8.0 and 8.1 percent, respectively.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bankrupt States Could Trim Pensions

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(VALLEJO, Calif.) -- Under existing law, a state cannot go bankrupt.  That's not because the action is forbidden.  Not the U.S. Constitution nor any other piece of paper says a state cannot.  The bankruptcy code simply does not address the possibility.

Now lawyers, politicians and other ingenious folks are looking for a way around that problem -- a fact that should come as no surprise, given the perilous financial health of California, Illinois and other states encumbered with crushing debts.  The 50 states have spent collectively, in the past two years, half a trillion more dollars than they took in as taxes.  Their pension funds, by some estimates, are underfunded by another trillion.

Arizona has sold off its state capitol.  The investment group that now owns the Supreme Court building and the chambers of the house and senate is graciously leasing those buildings back to the people.

California, facing a $19 billion shortfall, must now spend more on pensions for its public employees than it spends on the University of California system.  U.C., to avoid having to make deeper cuts than it has already made, hiked tuitions 32 percent in November 2008, igniting student protests.  The Golden State's credit rating has sunk almost to junk status.

What a tonic, then, if these states could toss off their obligations, as one might a heavy coat.  By declaring bankruptcy, states could start life anew and go skipping down the street.  Orange County, California, did it.  Vallejo, California, did it.  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is said to be thinking about doing it.  They used Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy code, which applies to municipalities.

Law professor David Skeel of the University of Pennsylvania said he sees no reason why Chapter 9 could not be tweaked to apply to states.  Doing so would be easy, he said: "You'd just have to change Chapter 9's definition of permitted entrants.  Basically, you'd change the entrance requirements."

That change, of course, would require legislative action -- a process "always uncertain."  An alternative would be to use Chapter 8, "which isn't currently taken," and use it to create something entirely fresh and new, exclusively for states, he said.

If and when states do grope their way to bankruptcy, the consequences would be most dramatic for state pensioners and for holders of state bonds.

Once a state has entered bankruptcy, Skeel said there could be sales of assets -- something akin to a corporate liquidation sale.  Creditors, including bond holders and unions, would be compelled to make concessions.  With court approval, a state could rewrite its union contracts.  Vallejo, California, has done just that.

It's possible, too, though legally less clear, that a state might re-negotiate its existing pension benefits -- a prospect that pensioners, understandably, find abhorrent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


States Across the Country Cut Programs to Balance Budgets

Photo Courtesy - Getty ImagesNEW YORK) -- A laundry list of government programs could be on the chopping block as states and municipalities across the country confront the hard realities of budget shortfalls. From hospice care to hearing aids, wildfire funding to the police force, state legislators and city leaders are considering all options in their efforts to stay in the black.

Most states are bound by their own laws to maintain balanced budgets, meaning many state governments are facing the tough choice: either cut spending or raise taxes.

In California, where Gov. Jerry Brown is confronting a $25 billion shortfall, that means canceling cell phone service for nearly 50,000 state workers. Brown himself is turning in his phone.

"It's not just cutting out programs. It's making government leaner and more effective," said Brown, a Democrat.

Cell phone service is just one area that may see cuts in California. Others include education spending and wildfire fighting.

Other states are taking unusual and drastic measures to dig their way out of debt. Forty-eight of them have slashed programs, including Medicaid.

In Arizona, that means nearly 100 people will be ineligible for state-funded, life-saving transplants.

South Carolina will stop payments to hospice, and Indiana could eliminate funding for hearing aids and dentures.

Municipalities also are faced with serious financial problems.

Detroit may have to close down half its public schools by 2013, the Detroit News reported this week. The move would increase typical class sizes from 35 to 62 people in public high schools.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio