In Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, Kentucky collected $15.5 billion in state and local taxes. While this is an impressive sum of money, it tells us little about whether or not the average Kentucky taxpayer can afford this level of taxation.
As shown in Chart 1 below, Kentucky’s state and local tax burden (tax collections divided by personal income) was the twenty-first lowest in the nation for FY 2013 at 9.8 percent—this is -5 percent below the national average of 10.3 percent. As shown in Chart 2, Kentucky’s tax burden has grown significantly over time by 60 percent to 9.8 percent in FY 2013 from 6.1 percent in FY 1950.
Kentucky’s lower than average state and local tax burden is driven by a low property tax burden (2.1 percent, 45th highest), and sales tax burden (1.9 percent, 36th highest). However, Kentucky does have a significant individual income tax burden (3 percent, 10th highest), corporate income tax burden (0.48 percent, 10th highest), and all other taxes burden (2.3 percent, 14th highest) that partially offsets the other lower taxes.
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 Kentucky—this includes every taxing jurisdiction within the geographic county borders whether it is a city, a special district, or county government itself.
The Kentucky counties with the highest local government tax burden include: Boone County, KY (4.4 percent), McCreary County, KY (4.3 percent), and Fayette County, KY (4.3 percent). The Kentucky counties with the lowest local government tax burden include: Owsley County, KY (1.2 percent), Meade County, KY (1.3 percent), and Larue County, KY (1.4 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.