Policy Documents

Ohio’s Local Income Taxes: Complex and in Need of Reform

Scott Drenkard –
May 7, 2013

My name is Scott Drenkard, and I’m an economist at the Tax Foundation. For those unfamiliar with the Tax Foundation, we are a non-partisan, non-profit organization that has monitored fiscal policy at all levels of government since 1937. We have produced the Facts & Figures handbook since 1941, we calculate Tax Freedom Day each year, and have a wealth of data, rankings, and other information at our website, www.TaxFoundation.org. We are guided by the principles of sound tax policy: simplicity, neutrality, transparency and stability.

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak today with regard to H.B. 5, a bill to reform elements of Ohio’s municipal tax system. While we take no position on the bill, I hope to give some perspective based on our research.

In 2011, we wrote a paper on city- and county-level income taxes, and found that of the 17 states that rely on local income taxes, Ohio has among the highest rates. In 2010, local income tax collections as a percentage of state personal income were 1.06 percent. The only state with higher effective rates is Maryland.

However, sound tax policy is not just about how much money is collected. It is about collecting revenue for necessary government services in the most efficient way possible. Ohio’s municipal tax system is far from that ideal. H.B. 5 does a great deal to remove some of the complexity built into Ohio’s municipal tax system. I’m hoping it represents a start to a movement by lawmakers to make the code more sensible and user-friendly.