207-688-8195 Professional Logging Contractors of Maine

10 Tax-Unfriendly States for Retirees 2011

by Mary Beth Franklin

Friday, June 24, 2011

Some states offer attractive tax benefits for retirees. Then there are these ten tax hells, which have earned a place on our “do not live here for your second act” list either because of higher-than-average taxes across the board or because of policies that don’t exempt much retirement income from state taxation.

For retirees living on a fixed income, high income taxes, burdensome real estate taxes and hefty sales taxes on daily purchases can really eat into a nest egg. Choosing to relocate to or stay put in a state with a low overall tax burden can help stretch your retirement income.

#1 VERMONT

State Income Tax: 3.55%-8.95%

State Sales Tax: 6% (localities can add another 1%)

Estate Tax/Inheritance Tax: Yes/No

There are no exemptions for retirement income in the Green Mountain State, except for Railroad Retirement benefits (which are exempt in every state). Out-of-state pensions are fully taxed. Vermont exempts medical devices and prescription and nonprescription drugs from its 6% sales tax. But it imposes a 9% tax on prepared foods, restaurant meals and lodging, and a levies a 10% sales tax on alcoholic beverages served in restaurants. Real estate taxes have two components: school property tax and municipal property tax collected by towns and cities where the property is located. The Tax Foundation, a nonprofit tax-research group in Washington, D.C., lists Vermont’s property tax among the ten highest in the nation.

#2 MINNESOTA

State Income Tax: 5.35%-7.85%

State Sales Tax: 6.875% (cities and counties can add another 2.65%)

Estate Tax/Inheritance Tax: No/No

Minnesota offers retirees cold comfort on the tax front. Social Security income is taxed to the same extent it is taxed on your federal return. Pensions are taxable regardless of where your pension was earned. Income-tax rates are high, and sales taxes can reach 9.53% in some cities. Food, clothing, and prescription and nonprescription drugs are exempt from sales taxes. The North Star State does offer some residents 65 and older who have income of $60,000 or less the option of deferring a portion of their property tax. But this is a low-interest loan, not a tax-forgiveness program.

#3 NEBRASKA

State Income Tax: 2.56%-6.84%

State Sales Tax: 5.5% (localities can add another 1.5%)

Estate Tax/Inheritance Tax: No/Yes

There are no tax breaks for Social Security benefits and military pensions in the Cornhusker State. Real estate is assessed at 100% of fair market value. Residents 65 and older qualify for a homestead exemption on property taxes. Food and prescription drugs are exempt from state sales taxes. But Nebraska imposes an inheritance tax on all transfers of property and annuities.

#4 OREGON

State Income Tax: 5%-11%

State Sales Tax: None

Estate Tax/Inheritance Tax: No/Yes

First, the upside: There’s no state sales tax in the Beaver State. But it shares the distinction with Hawaii of imposing the highest tax rate on personal income in the nation on taxable income of $250,000 or more. Although Oregon does not tax Social Security benefits, that’s the extent of its income-tax breaks for retirees. And Oregon has an inheritance tax that applies even to intangible personal property, such as investments and bank accounts, no matter where it is located.

#5 CALIFORNIA

State Income Tax: 1.25%-9.55%

State Sales Tax: 7.25% (effective July 1, 2011)

Estate Tax/Inheritance Tax: No/No

The Golden State has lost its luster for many retirees. Although Social Security benefits are exempt from state income taxes, all other forms of retirement income are fully taxed. Californians pay some of the highest income taxes in the U.S., with the top rate of 9.55% kicking in at $46,767 of taxable income. State and local sales taxes can reach 9.25% in some cities, although food and prescription drugs are exempt. Real estate is assessed at 100% of cash value, but taxes are capped at 1% of value.

#6 MAINE

State Income Tax: 2%-8.5%

State Sales Tax: 5% (counties can add another 0.5%)

Estate Tax/Inheritance Tax: Yes/No

Like the majority of states, Maine exempts Social Security benefits from state income taxes. And residents can deduct up to $6,000 per person of eligible pension income. But remaining income in excess of $20,150 per year is taxed at a steep 8.5% rate. Residents of the Pine Tree State pay a 5% sales tax statewide on everything except food and prescription drugs. All real estate and personal property is subject to local property taxes (and, in some cases, state property taxes, too), but permanent residents can receive an exemption of $10,000 on the assessed value of their home. Maine is also one of only three states that do not allow cities and towns to impose their own local sales taxes.

To view the worst states 7-10 visit: Kiplinger.com

Click here for the 10 Most Tax-Friendly States for Retirees