The Tax Burden in Kansas City Is High
On Ruckus the other day, panelist Woody Cozad mentioned that taxes in Kansas City are high. He’s right. My colleague Patrick Ishmael has made the point repeatedly. But a study of taxation out of Washington, D.C., underscores just how bad things have gotten here relative to other U.S. cities.
The study, issued by the government of the District of Columbia in December 2017, “aims to calculate the combined state and local tax burdens that would apply to a hypothetical family at five different income levels living in D.C. as well as the largest city in each state.” Kansas City is included and St. Louis is not, and neither are some cities that we’ve identified as peers. But the data are valuable nonetheless.
The estimated tax burden for a family earning $50,000 in Kansas City—the median income is $47,000—is $5,444. That’s 10.9 percent of income and includes income, property, sales, and auto taxes. This places us 8th in the country, ahead of places well-known as expensive such as Boston, New York, Portland, Seattle, Denver, and Los Angeles.
Dave Helling of The Kansas City Star has pointed out that taxes in Kansas City are also regressive. This report supports that conclusion regarding auto sales taxes, stating that “Providence, Rhode Island; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Kansas City, Missouri are the cities with the highest automobile tax burdens across all income levels.” Combined with all other taxes, a Kansas City family earning $25,000 pays a combined tax burden of 12.6 percent; 8th highest of the cities measured. For a family earning $100,000, the burden is lower at 11.2 percent, placing us 12th.
What’s worse, the sales tax estimates are low for Kansas City. On page 39, the study lists Kansas City’s sales tax rate to be 8.475 percent, but anyone living here knows it goes much higher due to the proliferation of special taxing districts across the city.
Individuals can determine for themselves if City Hall is providing a return worthy of the investment, but the debate over whether taxes are high is settled. Kansas City is a high-tax city. Our taxes are regressive, too, but they are certainly high.