In Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, Colorado collected $22.4 billion in state and local taxes. While this is an impressive sum of money, it tells us little about whether or not the average Colorado taxpayer can afford this level of taxation.
As shown in Chart 1 below, Colorado’s state and local tax burden (tax collections divided by personal income) was the thirteenth lowest in the nation for FY 2013 at 9.2 percent—this is -11 percent below the national average of 10.3 percent. As shown in Chart 2, Colorado’s tax burden has been practically static over time with growth of only 1 percent to 9.2 percent in FY 2013 from 9.1 percent in FY 1950.
Colorado’s lower than average state and local tax burden is driven by having generally average tax burdens across tax types, but their low corporate income tax burden (0.27 percent, 34th highest) and low all other taxes burden (1.6 percent, 40th lowest) really help.
Of course, the tax burdens for local government can vary just as much as they do among the 50 states. As such, we have also calculated the local government tax burden for every county in Colorado—this includes every taxing jurisdiction within the geographic county borders whether it is a city, a special district, or county government itself.
The Colorado counties with the highest local government tax burden include: Lake County, CO (25.2 percent), Rio Blanco County, CO (21.1 percent), and San Miguel County, CO (15.2 percent). The Colorado counties with the lowest local government tax burden include: Elbert County, CO (2.4 percent), Douglas County, CO (2.8 percent), and Crowley County, CO (2.8 percent).
J. Scott Moody has nearly 20 years experience as a public policy economist with a specialty in tax policy and has over 180 publications. He has worked for numerous national and state-based think tanks such as the American Conservative Union Foundation, Federalism In Action, Tax Foundation, Heritage Foundation, and The Maine Heritage Policy Center.