It’s generally accepted that taxes are necessary for the functioning of society, but they still get a pretty bad rap. Hating taxes is an American tradition. Not all taxes are treated equally, and some are despised more than others.
So which do we hate the most? Here’s a list of the five most hated taxes by Americans, based on an American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research public opinion study. (For related reading, see: 5 Tax Moves to Make By Year End.)
The Top Five
State income tax. Even though the majority of the country has to pay income tax to their state, no one has to like it. Many see it as annoying and overly complicated. Not only do you have to file two returns, but you have to pay taxes to both the state and federal governments. However, there are seven states with no income tax, while Tennessee and New Hampshire only tax dividend and interest income.
Self-employment tax. If you work for yourself or own a small business, paying taxes can be even more frustrating. That’s because if you work for someone else's company, your employer pays half your FICA, social security and Medicare taxes. If you’re self-employed, you pay the full amount yourself. “It can make quite a difference in a tax bill if your business is profitable and can raise the total you owe to over 40% of net profits,” said CFP Johanna Turner of Milestones Financial Planning LLC. “To make it even worse, contributions to a business retirement plan are not deductible for the purpose of computing self-employment taxes.”
Social security taxes. For many people, especially those a long way from retirement, paying social security taxes can feel defeating. The current generation of workers is funding social security for baby boomers, but it is unlikely they’ll be able to reap the same benefits. It can feel unfair to pay into a tax you might not be eligible to receive yourself.
State sales tax. Every state has a varying sales tax, and people tend to hate them all. The argument here is that the tax has a greater effect the less money you earn. That’s because unlike progressive income tax, the sales tax is the same whether you earn $30,000 or $300,000. But if you earn the latter, you’re less likely to feel the effects of sales tax.
Property tax. Property taxes often fund things in your community like libraries and schools. But that doesn’t stop people from despising them. Local governments can change property taxes often, and that uncertainty can cause a lot of backlash. Plus, the tax rate is the same no matter the value of your home or how much you earn. Like the state sales tax, this regressive tax can feel unfair to those less fortunate. (For related reading, see: Tax Breaks for Volunteering.)
According to a Gallup poll, 50% of Americans surveyed in 2011 felt they owed too much in taxes. More than 60% of people said they felt either very dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied at the amount of federal taxes that Americans pay. When asked if they thought taxes would rise in the coming year, 64% said yes.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. More than one third of Americans look forward to doing taxes. It’s not because they like adding up figures — people just assume they’ll be getting a sizeable refund.
The Bottom Line
There’s not much that unites Americans like their hatred of taxes. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, you’re not likely to be a fan of paying out to the IRS. (For related reading, see: 5 States Without Sales Tax.)