Taxes in the District have gone up more than state and local taxes in all except two states during the last 10 years, and the absolute level of taxation is also third-highest, the Tax Foundation reported last week.
From 1973 to 1983, the per-capita tax burden from all District levies climbed 221 percent, to an average of $2,132 per person. The national average in 1983 was $1,216, a 111 percent rise from 10 years before.
Only Alaska and Wyoming showed tax levels and rates of tax increase higher than the District, and their taxes tend to be skewed by severance taxes on oil and coal. Combined state and local taxes in Maryland went up by 115 percent, to $1,350 per capita. Virginia taxes rose 128 percent but remained, at $1,094, below the national average.
Looked at another way, District taxes as a percentage of personal income were higher than in all but three states. The average effective tax rate, including property, sales and income taxes, was 14.5 percent in the District, surpassed only by Alaska, Wyoming and New York. The national average was 11.1 percent.
In 48 states, state and local taxes as a percentage of income declined during the last 10 years, rising only in the District, Wyoming and Alaska. In Maryland, the rate fell from 12.9 percent to 11.1 percent, exactly the same as the national average. The Virginia tax rate went from 11.3 percent to 10 percent.
City Councilman John A. Wilson agreed the District's taxes are relatively high, but pointed out that the jurisdiction doesn't have some of the tax sources that states do. With little industry, no agriculture and no ports, the District is forced to place more reliance on sales, property and income taxes than do Maryland and Virginia, he said.
Other factors, such as a high proportion of single, working people and a rise in property-tax assessments, help explain the high rate for the District, Wilson said. But he also blamed the high taxes on a growing government.
"We probably have too many employes per capita and too many institutions that don't run efficiently," Wilson said. "We haven't had a tax cut in 10 years and I don't see where we are going to be able to cut taxes in the near future."