St. Louis City’s Earnings Tax Is Not the Lowest in the Country
The earnings tax was one topic of conversation during a recent forum for St. Louis mayoral candidates. During the forum, one candidate claimed that St. Louis has the lowest earnings tax rate in the country. This claim was made while discussing a possible expansion of the earnings tax to St. Louis County. No matter how you look at it, the claim that St. Louis has the lowest earnings tax rate in the country is false.
Most cities in the United States, including most large cities, do not have any form of local income tax. As of 2019, there are only 17 states with local income tax jurisdictions and only 19 of the country’s 100 most populous cities have some form of local income tax. This means that thousands of cities (including comparable large cities such as Chicago, Omaha, and Nashville) have a lower earnings tax than St. Louis city—their earnings tax is 0 percent!
Even if we’re just looking at the jurisdictions with local income taxes, St. Louis still doesn’t have the lowest rate. Many jurisdictions in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio have rates below 1 percent. In Colorado, Aurora, Greenwood Village, and Sheridan have monthly local income taxes of $3.00 or less on those that make over $500 per month, which is a 0.6 percent local income tax at most. Clearly, St. Louis does not have the lowest rate among local income taxes.
Objectively, 1 percent is not all that high, and a few large cities with local income taxes have slightly higher rates. But the earnings taxes in St. Louis City and Kansas City are certainly not the lowest in the country and they are definitely not negligibly low. The additional 1 percent that Kansas City and St. Louis city residents and workers pay creates real negative effects for these cities. The local income tax in Missouri’s two largest cities is higher than those in hundreds of other cities in Missouri and thousands of cities across the country, making our largest cities less competitive while also taking money away from our hard-working citizens. That’s not a false claim.