Why Might Preparing Taxes be Different for People Living in Different States?

why might preparing taxes be different for people living in different states

Tax season can be a complex time for many, and the task becomes more intricate when considering state-specific tax laws. People living in different states can experience varying tax situations due to differences in state tax codes, income tax rates, sales tax rates, property taxes, and even credits and deductions. Let’s delve into why preparing taxes might be different for people residing in various states.

1. State Income Tax

The first significant difference lies in state income tax. Seven states in the US (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming) do not levy state income tax. Residents in these states only need to file federal income tax returns, simplifying their tax preparation process.

In contrast, the remaining 43 states and the District of Columbia impose state income taxes, with rates varying from state to state. For instance, California has the highest maximum state income tax rate, reaching up to 13.3% for high earners, while others, like North Dakota and Pennsylvania, have significantly lower rates.

2. Sales Tax

Sales tax can also vary dramatically from state to state, influencing consumers’ tax burden. Some states, like Oregon and New Hampshire, do not have state-level sales tax, while others, such as Tennessee and Louisiana, have high combined state and local sales tax rates.

While sales tax might not directly impact the tax filing process, it can affect your overall tax burden, with residents in high sales tax states potentially paying more in taxes throughout the year.

3. Property Taxes

Homeowners might find their tax preparation differs based on their state of residence due to property taxes. States have different tax rates for real estate properties, and the methodology used to assess a property’s value for taxation can also differ.

4. Credits and Deductions

States also have unique tax credits and deductions that can influence tax preparation. For instance, some states may offer credits for energy-efficient home improvements, childcare expenses, or education costs that aren’t available in other states. These state-specific opportunities can create differences in how residents of various states prepare their tax returns.

5. Reciprocal Tax Agreements

Reciprocal tax agreements between certain states can impact how individuals file taxes. These agreements allow residents of one state to work in a neighboring state without having to file nonresident tax returns in the state they work in. This simplifies the tax preparation process for many cross-border commuters.

6. Tax Preparation for Part-Year and Multi-State Residents

People who have moved from one state to another during the year or who earn income in multiple states may need to file part-year or non-resident tax returns in those states. The process for this can vary from state to state, affecting the complexity of the tax preparation process.


State-specific tax codes significantly contribute to why preparing taxes can be different for people living in different states. The process of preparing and filing taxes can be impacted by the range of tax structures across the states, such as varying income tax rates, different credits and deductions, and unique rules for property and sales taxes. Therefore, it is essential to understand the specific tax rules of your state or engage with a tax professional to assist with your tax preparation.