Mississippi Tax Burden Highly Regressive

Mississippi families making $18,000 or less pay 12.1% of their income in state and local sales, property and income taxes, while those making more than $224,000 pay only 5.4%. The two main factors responsible for the inequity in tax burden are the sales tax and the federal deduction offset, which allows taxpayers to deduct state income tax on their federal income tax returns. While the Mississippi income tax is somewhat progressive, that progressivity is more than made up for by the other taxes.

The legislature attempted to remedy the gross disparity this year by reducing sales tax on groceries and raising them on tobacco, but the governor, steadfast in his loyalty towards his former lobbying clients in the tobacco industry, vetoed the bill. This is consistent with the Republican philosophy that the wealthy should pay as few taxes as possible, and preferably no taxes. It also fits with Mississippi's resort to regressive taxes since the 1930s.

So for the flat taxers in the audience: What would we have to change in order to have a reasonably flat tax? Keep in mind that the state is already reducing public services, including Medicaid, because of shortfalls in tax revenue, and we probably have all the casinos that we we should have. How about a lottery?

A Lottery is a Taxation,
Upon all the Fools in Creation;
And Heav’n be prais’d,
It is easily rais’d,
Credulity’s always in Fashion;
For, Folly’s a Fund,
Will never lose Ground;
While Fools are so rife in the Nation.

Henry Fielding (1732)

Here's a radical idea: how about making the tax system fair? Every dollar paid in taxes by a family making $18,000 a year is a gouge out of their ability to lead a decent life. Every dollar of taxes paid by a family making more than $224,000 a year is no more significant than a flyspeck on the hood of their Mercedes. Maybe they will have to buy Dewar's instead of Balvaney. A truly flat tax would improve the finances of the state tremendously, but any tax system that forces a family at the bottom of the economic ladder to pay 12.1% of their income is a moral outrage. Under the current system, those unfortunate families making less than $18,000 may have to choose, not between two brands of scotch whiskey, but between food and medicine.


Mississippi State & Local Taxes in 1995: Shares of family income for non-elderly married couples. (.pdf)
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Compare different states' taxation burdens

Citizens for Tax Justice

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