In Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, West Virginia collected $7.2 billion in state and local taxes. While this is an impressive sum of money, it tells us little about whether or not the average West Virginia taxpayer can afford this level of taxation.
As shown in Chart 1, West Virginia’s state and local tax burden (tax collections divided by personal income) was the ninth highest in the nation for FY 2013 at 11 percent—this is 7 percent above the national average of 10.3 percent. As shown in Chart 2, West Virginia’s tax burden has grown over time by 70 percent to 11 percent in FY 2013 from 6.5 percent in FY 1950.
West Virginia’s high tax burden is driven by a high individual income tax burden (2.8 percent, 14th highest) and high all other tax burdens (3.6 percent, 6th highest)—all other taxes being primarily severance taxes on natural resources, especially coal.
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 West Virginia—this includes every taxing jurisdiction within the geographic county borders whether it is a city, a special district, or county government itself.
The West Virginia counties with the highest local government tax burden include: Boone County, WV (5.3 percent), Doddridge County, WV (5.2 percent), and Pleasants County, WV (5 percent). The West Virginia counties with the lowest local government tax burden include: Barbour County, WV (1.5 percent), Monroe County, WV (1.6 percent), and Pendleton County, WV (1.6 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.