Five years in a row and counting: That’s how long New Jersey has been ranked dead last in the Tax Foundation’s annual rankings of state business tax climates.
The foundation released its annual report today looking at state taxes for 2020, and New Jersey was again ranked 50th overall for the fifth year in a row. New Jersey ranked 49th in corporate taxes, 50th in income taxes, 42nd in sales taxes, 47th in property taxes and 30th in unemployment insurance taxes. The last time New Jersey wasn’t ranked last overall was in the 2014 report, when the state’s overall tax climate was ranked 49th.
Other poorly ranked states include neighboring New York (No. 49), California (No. 48), Connecticut (No. 47), and Arkansas (No. 46).
“States at the bottom tend to have a number of afflictions in common: complex, non-neutral taxes with comparatively high rates,” the Tax Foundation noted.
“As the report states verbatim: ‘Taxes matter to business.’ They also matter to residents,’” NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka said in a statement. “As long as New Jersey continues along this disappointing path, we will continue to be non-competitive in our region, we will continue to drive away businesses and residents and we will continue to be unaffordable.”.”
Despite the poor showing, things could have been worse. The Legislature resisted Gov. Phil Murphy’s call to expand the upper bracket of the state’s individual income taxes. In fact, this year’s budget, which took effect July 1, did not include any broad tax increases, but since New Jersey was already ranked last, it didn’t improve the state’s standing either.
|Overall Rank||Corporate Tax Rank||Individual Income Tax Rank||Sales Tax Rank||Property Tax Rank||Unemployment Insurance Tax Rank|
Of particular concern is New Jersey’s competitiveness with neighboring states. New York didn’t do much better than New Jersey, but Pennsylvania came in at 29th and Delaware was ranked 11th.
For NJBIA, making New Jersey regionally competitive on taxes and the cost of doing business is key to maintaining economic growth.
“New Jersey has tremendous assets that we are extremely proud of,” Siekerka said. “But as the Tax Foundation study verifies, we are beyond paying a super premium for these advantages. We are well beyond the tipping point for affordability in this state and yet, even during a continued economic upswing, there is still talk about adding new taxes to our annual budget.”
Those states ranked for having the best tax systems are Wyoming (No. 1), South Dakota (No. 2), Alaska (No. 3), Florida (No. 4) and Montana (No. 5).
The Tax Foundation says the absence of a major tax is a common factor among many of the top 10 states, but it’s not a requirement. Property taxes and unemployment insurance are levied in every state, but several states do without one or more of the major taxes.
“This does not mean, however, that a state cannot rank in the top 10 while still levying all the major taxes. Indiana and Utah, for example, levy all of the major tax types, but do so with low rates on broad bases.”
Editors note: George Saliba of New Jersey Business magazine contributed to this article.