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|Tax policy in the states|
Historically, general sales or use tax has been "one of the mainstays of state revenue systems." Presently, sales tax revenue comprises roughly one third of the total tax revenue the states collect. The lucrativeness of the sale tax for states has, however, diminished somewhat in recent years. In 1998, for the first time since the Depression, sales tax accounted for a smaller share of the states' tax collections than personal income tax.
Some have claimed that the sales tax is unfair, unduly burdening the poor because they "pay a larger percentage of their income in sales taxes than do middle- or upper-income people." Nonetheless, surveys show that citizens view consumption taxes (sales and use tax, as well as specialized sales taxes, or excise taxes) as "the most acceptable forms of taxation."
Sales tax rates
The table below lists the sales tax rates for all 50 states, as well as the status of items commonly exempted from sales tax. Of the 50 states (and Washington, D.C.), only five do not collect a general sales tax. For the remaining states that do collect sales tax, rates range from 2.9 percent in Colorado to 7.5 percent in California. The numerical rankings listed have been tallied by excluding the states that do not collect sales tax and assigning the same numerical ranking to states with the same rate. Because several states share common rates, the rankings range from one, indicating the lowest sales tax rate, to 22, which indicates the highest.
|Sales tax rates, 2014|
|State||Sales tax rate||Exemption status||Ranking|
|Food||Prescription drugs||Nonprescription drugs|
|Alaska||No sales tax|
|Delaware||No sales tax|
|District of Columbia||5.75||Exempt||Exempt||Exempt||12|
|Montana||No sales tax|
|New Hampshire||No sales tax|
|North Carolina||4.75||Exempt 4||Exempt||Taxable||5|
|Oregon||No sales tax|
|Utah||5.95 4||1.75 4||Exempt||Taxable||13|
|Virginia||5.3 2||2.5 2||Exempt||Exempt||8|
| 1"Some states tax food but allow a rebate or income tax credit to compensate poor households. They are Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma and South Dakota."|
2"Includes statewide 1.00 percent tax levied by local governments in Virginia."
3"Tax rate may be adjusted annually according to a formula based on balances in the unappropriated general fund and the school foundation fund."
4"Food sales subject to local taxes. Includes a statewide 1.25 percent tax levied by local governments in Utah."
5"Nevada sales tax rate scheduled to decrease to 6.5 percent on July 1, 2015."
Source: Tax Policy Center, "Sales Tax Rates 2000-2014," June 2, 2014
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