District residents have long been accustomed to lugging around the heaviest tax burden in the Washington region, paying considerably more in combined local income, real estate and sales taxes than their suburban neighbors.

But maybe it's a comfort to see that the District's tax levies are not out of line with other major cities.

A new study issued by Valerie Holt, the D.C. chief financial officer, makes that point.

It calculates that a District family of four with $50,000 in annual income would have paid a total of $4,650 in the major local tax categories last year, placing the capital 14th from the top in a comparison of state and local tax burdens in 51 leading U.S. cities.

Moreover, the District is not far above the $4,274 average for all the cities in the study.

Prepared by deputy chief financial officer Natwar M. Gandhi and D.C. chief economist Julia Friedman, the study compares taxes on income, residential property and automobiles (including gasoline and personal property taxes), and sales and use taxes. Federal taxes are not included.

For families with $50,000 in income, the 10 cities with the biggest tax bites are, in order, Bridgeport, Conn.; Newark; Philadelphia; Portland, Maine; New York; Milwaukee; Baltimore; Chicago; Louisville; and Manchester, N.H. The study includes the District and the largest city in each state.

The study also shows the District's stiffer treatment of wealthier residents. For a family of four with $100,000 in annual income, the District ranked 10th from the top, with a total tax levy of $10,937.

Tax rates in the District are headed down after the approval in May of a package of personal and business reductions that will total nearly $300 million when fully phased in. Income tax rates would be trimmed by 30 percent, beginning in 2001, to make the city more competitive with suburban jurisdictions.

But these moves may not change the District's position on the tax burden list much, because tax rates are being cut everywhere, Friedman said.

The bad news for the District appears in the study's detail, which shows the District is heavily dependent on its income taxes, collecting $2,709 from a family of four with $50,000 in income, or 58 percent of all the local taxes counted in the study.

Counting income taxes only, the District placed sixth on the list, behind only Louisville, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York and Portland, Maine.

Because of a restrictive court decision, the District has a very limited capability to collect business taxes on legal and accounting firms -- a steadily growing source of jobs. And it doesn't collect income taxes on the commuters who make up two-thirds of the District's work force.

"We can't capture the part of the overall tax space that has the greatest potential for growth, overall," Friedman said. "That's a very grave, long-term concern for the District."

Death and . . .

Below, estimated burden of major taxes, excluding auto tax, for a family of four in 1998 with $50,000 in adjusted gross income:

Bridgeport, Conn.

Income tax $530

Property tax $8,417

Philadelphia

Income tax $3,067

Property tax $2,205

New York City

Income tax $2,934

Property tax $1,648

Baltimore

Income tax $2,492

Property tax $1,997

Chicago

Income tax $1,205

Property tax $2,773

Louisville

Income tax $3,190

Property tax $912

Detroit

Income tax $3,007

Property tax $1,097

Honolulu

Income tax $2,613

Property tax $1,366

Boston

Income tax $2,087

Property tax $1,992

Washington

Income tax $2,709

Property tax $879

SOURCE: D.C. chief financial officer