The District of Columbia spends up to 10 times more per capita for health and social services than the surrounding suburban communities while the taxpayers it needs to foot the bills move to those suburbs.
A D.C. department of finance and revenue study reports tht suburban taxpayers with incomes of $20,000 or more outnumbered those in the District by more than nine to one in 1975. There were 31,000 of these taxpayers in D.C.; in 152,000 in Maryland and 130,000 in Northern Virginia.
District residents in the over $20,000 income bracket accounted for only 10 per cent of the city's total number of taxpayers but they paid 45 per cent of the taxes that the D.C. government collected.
The number of persons who made more than $20,000 a year rose throughout the Washington area in 1975 but fewer of them were residents of the District than anywhere else, according to an analysis of the D.C. figures. The number of high-bracket returns - those on incomes over $20,000 - filed in the District increased by 14,000. As a group, the over $20,000 income class increased from six per cent to 10 per cent of the city's total tax filers between 1971 and 1975.
During the same period, the Maryland suburban communities gained 70,000 high-bracket filers, a rise from 20 to 33 per cent of those suburbs' total tax return filers.
Records for Northern Virginia are not strictly comparable. The over-$15,000 income group rose from 33 to 45 per cent of the total between 1972 and 1975, for total increase of 59,000.
The tax burden on upper-income District residents results from the city's steeply progressive individual income tax rates, according to an economist with the department of finance and revenue.
The District rate is 10 per cent on incomes over $20,000, and 11 per cent on incomes over $25,000. Rates for the same categories are significantly lower in the suburbs. Virginia taxpayers pay only 5 3/4 per cent on the same income, and Maryland residents pay 7 1/2 per cent.
D.C.'s progressive tax rates bear down hardest on families at the high end of the upper-income bracket. For example, in 1976, city families with incomes of $40,000 paid $1,013 more in taxes than similiar families in Virginia, and $390 mor than those in Maryland, according to a District government report.
At the $30,000 level, District residents paid $592 more than they would have paid in Virginia, and $117 more than in Maryland. At the $20,000 level, D.C. families paid $260 more than in Virginia, but $65 less than in Maryland.
At the $20,000 level, the D.C. family of four pays slightly less than the maryland family because of the effect of deductions and exemptions. These would lower the $20,000 income, making only $14,000 subject to tax. Maryland's tax rates are lower than those in the District up to $10,000, and therefore have a greater effect on the tax liability at this level.
In contrast to the 10 per cent of D.C. taxpayers who shouldered 45 per cent of the tax burden, the top 33 per cent of the taxpayers in Maryland paid 67 per cent of the total suburban taxes in Northern Virginia, 32 per cent paid 73 per cent of the total taxes collected.
Tax return statistics also show that median net taxable income increased by only $1,500 in the District between 1971 and 1975, compared to $3,500 in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. The median is the point where, if all returns were arranged in a series from the lowest to the highest income, there would be an equal number of returns below and an equal number above.
The issue of heavy tax burdens has been raised by Thornton W. Owen, chairman of Perpetual Federal Savings and Loan Association, the city's largest S&I. He has urged the District to try to attract more affluent residents and to find housing for some of the city's poor in the suburbs.
Owen made his recommendations at a meeting of the District's Legislative Commission on Housing, of which he is a member. His advice was branded as "racist" by some city officials after his remarks became widely known in May.
Income tax rates significantly affect the choices wealthier people make about where they will live, according to Dr. Edwin A. Verburg, a public finance specialist with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Verburg headed a team of experts that produced a six-volume fiscal analysis of the metropolitan area last year.
"The majority of upper-income people are very cognizant of the tax brackets they fall into," he said. "Of course, there are many other influencing factors, such as educational facilities, fire, health and police services, perferences as to geographic area, and location of family and friends," he added.
Verburg said he has not studied whether the large concentrations of upper income people in the suburbs meant they might have more political clout and voice in their tax rates than the small group in the District.
While the District has the least number of high income taxpayers as residents, it must care for 54 per cent of the metropolititan area's poor, according to Atlee Shidler, president of the Washington Center for Metropolitan Studies. Consequently, the District spends far more on some of its public services than do the other jurisdictions.
A COG study of per capita expenditures for fiscal year 1974 shows the following state, local and special district expenditures in the metropolitan area:
D.C. - $181
Maryland - $40
D.C. - $221
Maryland - $12
Virginia - $21
D.C. - $359
Maryland - $51
D.C. - $388
Maryland - $162
Virginia - $246