Introduction to Oregon Taxes
State government is largely supported by personal income and corporate excise taxes. Local governments and schools are largely funded by property taxes. Oregon is one of only five states in the nation that levies no sales or use tax.
The State of Oregon does not impose:
State government receipts of personal income and corporate excise taxes are contributed to the State's General Fund budget, the growth of which is controlled by State law. Oregon must balance expenditures with receipts and cannot operate in deficit or maintain a surplus. State law requires the return of unanticipated revenues to taxpayers.
Oregon has a personal income tax usually ranking in the top 10 percent of the nation. Since Oregon does not have a sales tax, its primarily source of revenue is the income tax. Four other states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire) also do not have a sales tax although some Alaska cities do levy a sales tax. Over the years, Oregon voters have rejected a sales tax nine times.
The Oregon Department of Revenue maintains a page on their Web site called Moving to Oregon that is helpful to new residents of Oregon.
The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a private, non-profit research organization working to provide timely, credible, and understandable research, analysis, and information on public policies that affect low to moderate income Oregonians, the majority of Oregonians.
Oregon Needs Tax Reform
Just about everyone hates taxes but Oregonians seem to dislike taxes more than the average person. Prior to voters passing Measures 66 and 67 in 2010, the last income tax increase that voters approved was in the 1930s. They have voted nine times against a sales tax. Oregonians may not have created the saying, "Don’t tax me. Don’t tax thee. Tax the man behind the tree" but they have adopted it as their own.
Oregon's "kicker law," underscores Oregon’s distaste for taxes. When times are good, the state sends kicker refunds to residents from revenue that exceeds forecasts by state economists. This prevents the state from saving for a "rainy day" when revenues are low like during a recession. In December 2007, just as the country was entering a recession, Oregon returned $1.1 billion to residents, bounty from the previous boom year, because of the kicker law. By the spring of 2009, as Oregon’s unemployment rate was on its way to becoming one of the highest in the nation, the Legislature was voting to raise taxes by $727 million.
Measure 66 increases taxes on household income above $250,000 ($125,000 for individual filers) − about three percent of the state residents will be affected by this higher tax. They also approved fees and higher taxes on corporations (Measure 67).
What many people on each side agree on is that, recession or not, Oregon’s tax system is flawed and that passing Measures 66 and 67 is not a long-term solution. Here are the problems:
In heavily forested Oregon counties such as Jackson County, there is another wrinkle. Property taxes were historically low here in part because the counties received payments from the federal government for timber production on federal lands. Yet timber production has declined substantially, and subsequent federal subsidies have not compensated for the decline. That aid, too, is set to phase out.
Tax Burden: How Oregon Compares
The Oregon Legislative Revenue Office Tax Report
That's a big change from the 1990s, when the state consistently ranked in the upper tiers for overall tax burden. Since then, property tax limits and tax hikes in other states have allowed Oregon to fall into the lower third.
You can download the report by click here.
Federation of Tax Administrators
U.S. Census Bureau
The State Government Tax Collections (STC) report provides a summary of taxes collected by state for up to 25 tax categories. These tables and data files present the details on tax collections by type of tax imposed and collected by state governments. Click here to view the Census Bureau Web page about STC.
Retirement Living Information Center
The Retirement Living Information Center Web site has information about taxes in all of the states. The site provides access to an array of resource materials, including reports on great places to retire, tax information on each state, monthly reports on new retirement communities, an online newsletter, books and online publications, a guide to state aging agencies, access to information about special products and services, and links to online stores. Their Web page entitled, "Taxes by State" has information about taxes for all the states.
Measure 66/HB 2649
Oregon voters decided in late January, 2010, to raise taxes on high income citizens by a margin of 54.3 percent to 45.8 percent. Measure 66 directly challenges HB 2649 which was signed by the governor. Groups opposing the implementation of HB 2649 obtained enough signatures on a petition to refer the measure to the voters. The results triggered waves of relief from educators and legislative leaders, who were facing an estimated $727 million shortfall in the current two-year budget if the measures failed.
Measure 66 raises tax on household income at and above $250,000 (and $125,000 for individual filers). It also reduces income taxes on unemployment benefits in 2009. It provides funds currently budgeted for education, health care, public safety, other services.
City of Portland Taxes
The Tax Foundation released a report in the summer of 2010 on taxes for metropolitan areas. They rank Portland 106 (out of 107 areas) for state, county, and local tax rates in cities with population of 200,000 ranked by total rate as of July 1, 2010.
The combined sales tax rate varied from zero to 10 percent in the 107 U.S. cities with a population above 200,000. Those cities account for around 62 million residents or one-fifth of the U.S. population.
Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama, have the dubious honor of levying the highest combined sales tax rate, 10%; Anchorage, Alaska, and Portland, Oregon, are the only large cities that levy a zero sales tax at all levels of state and local government.
The county level rates vary from 5% in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to 0% in 28 of the 107 cities. The city-level tax has about the same rate of fluctuation, from 5.266% in St. Louis, Missouri, to 0% in 57 of the 107 cities.
Oregon State Income Tax
The Oregon Department of Revenue has a page called "Common Questions" which explains Oregon income taxes. Here is the link: Common Questions About Oregon Income Taxes.
All forms can be downloaded as blank, fillable forms, and can be completed online. Forms and Instructions.
Oregon allows seniors 62 or older to deduct medical expenses they couldn't deduct on the federal form. Taxpayers become eligible for this "special Oregon medical deduction" if either they or their spouses are 62 or older, as long as they file jointly. They also must itemize deductions on their Oregon return expenses in Oregon.
Oregon Corporate Taxes and Business Climate
The latest Tax Foundation report on state tax rates was released in late March of 2010. Oregon ranks No. 14 in business climate, according to the nonpartisan research center. The Foundation measures business climate based on five burdens − the corporate tax, individual tax, sales tax, property tax and unemployment tax.
The Council on State Taxation, which includes multi-state and national corporations, reported in April 2010 that Oregon provided the best “value” to businesses from the taxes they paid during 2009. Oregon’s state and local business taxes tied with North Carolina and Delaware for the country’s lowest last year, according to the group. The state taxation council based its study on 2009 tax receipts. The “value” is based on Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago economists’ calculations as to how much state money goes for education and other services. Such measures determine how much state spending benefits businesses.
Measure 67/HB 3405 Oregon voters bucked decades of anti-tax and anti-Salem sentiment in late January, 2010, raising taxes on corporations (along with the wealthy via Measure 66). The tax measures passed easily by 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent ratio. Measure 67 sets higher minimum taxes on corporations and increases the tax rate on upper-level profits. The measure directly challenges HB 3405 which was signed by the governor in 2009. Business groups obtained sufficient signatures to put the measure on a special ballot so Oregon voters would decide the fate of HB 3405. It changes the 78-year-old $10 corporate minimum tax to a sliding scale starting at $150 in taxes and based on sales.
Business groups opposed Measure 67 but they were outspent by unions for teachers and public employees − they outspent business groups by two million dollars.
The overwhelming majority of Oregon businesses don’t pay income taxes to the state. Even the bulk of larger “C corporations” pay just $10 alternative minimum tax, until that tax was raised in 2009 (HB 3405). It’s not that they’re all losing money; most are taking advantage of write offs and other tax breaks. Portland General Electric, in the days when it was owned by Enron, sometimes paid the $10 minimum tax, despite getting a guaranteed rate of profit from state utility regulators.
Among the 33,593 C corporations, which tend to be larger businesses, state economists estimate that 60 percent would pay a $150 minimum tax under Measure 67, up from the former $10. Most of the rest of the C Corporations would pay a new minimum tax based on 0.1 percent of in-state sales of more than $500,000. That tax was capped at $100,000.
About 5 percent of C corporations will pay a higher corporate income tax, taxed at a 7.9 percent rate instead of the former 6.6 percent rate. That increase ends after three years, except for companies with more than $10 million in profits.
Council on State Taxation
Oregon raised 30 percent of its state taxes from business in 2008, considerably less than the national average of nearly 40 percent, according to the Council on State Taxation, a nonprofit corporate trade association. Only four states derived a lower share of their taxes from business.
Forbes Magazine Rank Oregon Sixth Best in Nation in 2010
Oregon ranks sixth best in the nation as a place for business and careers, according to Forbes Magazine, which raised the state's rank despite new taxes from ballot measures 66 and 67. Oregon's position in the annual ranking climbed from 10th a year ago. Forbes ranked Oregon's labor supply fourth in the nation and its growth prospects 12th.
Ernst & Young Total Effective Tax Rate
Accounting experts Ernst & Young calculate "total effective tax rate" by taking into account property, receipt and sales and income taxes, cite Oregon's as second-lowest in the U.S., at 3.8%; Washington's is 5.8%. Delaware's total effective tax rate is the nation's lowest, at 3.5%, and Alaska's the highest, at 11.6%.
Portland's Tax Advantage over Washington
Greater Portland companies have another tax advantage on either side of the Columbia. Oregon has no sales tax, which can be a boon for companies making big equipment purchases. And Washington has no state income tax, a selling point for prospective employees.
More Facts About Oregon Corporate Taxes
Live in Washington State and Work in Oregon
Washington State does NOT have an income tax. But if you live in the state of Washington and work in Oregon, all income for services performed in Oregon is taxed by Oregon. The same is true if you live in Oregon and work in Washington - you will pay Oregon taxes on the income you earned in Washington. Read more at the Oregon Department of Revenue about this topic.
The Amtrak Act prohibits states from imposing an income tax on nonresidents who are employees of motor vehicle carriers and who perform duties in two or more states. See the explanation at the Oregon Department of Revenue Web site: Amtrak Act.
Retirees - What Income is Taxed in Oregon
Oregon taxes that part of the annuity from federal government retires for service after October 1991. Retires can visit the Oregon Department of Revenue Web site to calculate what you would pay.
Oregon does not tax Social Security, Veteran Administration benefits, or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
The property tax in Oregon is used for the support of local taxing districts such as public schools, cities, and counties.
The property tax applies to privately owned real estate such as land, homes, farms, stores, factories, warehouses and commercial offices. Personal property held for the use and enjoyment of individuals is exempt from taxation. However, personal property such as machinery, equipment and supplies used to produce income, or with the potential of producing income, is subject to taxation. Assessed taxable values are 100 percent of true market value.
History of Property Tax Measures
Gas and diesel is taxed at the rate of 30 cents per gallon in Oregon. By comparison, the gas tax in Washington state is 37.5 cents per gallon, and 46.6 cents per gallon in California (the nation’s highest). In addition, Multnomah county (where Portland is located) has a .03 cents per gallon tax and Washington county has a .01 cent per gallon tax. Oregon gas tax ranks in the top 10 states. Only service station attendants can pump gas in Oregon. Visit the Oregon Department of Transportation Web site to learn more.
Oregon usually tops the nation in overall gas prices. No one know exactly why Oregon's gas prices are so high. See the latest information on gasoline prices from the American Automobile Association.
Beer, Wine, and Cigarette Taxes
Source: Federation of Tax Administrators
Residents are required to register their vehicle as soon as they establish residency. The fee is $77 for one year for a passenger car registration. License plates are $23 a year. Multnomah County has assessed a fee in addition to your state registration fee to fund construction of a new Sellwood Bridge. Vehicles in Multnomah County with registration expiring on or after September 1, 2010 will be assessed an additional fee of $19 per year or $38 for a two-year renewal. There are state Driver and Motor Vehicle Services branch offices throughout the metropolitan area.
Vehicles in the metropolitan area are also required to pass an exhaust emissions test before licenses will be granted. The fee is $37 for two years. Vehicle emission test centers are located throughout the metropolitan area. A VIN (physical examination of your vehicle to determine whether the vehicle identification number matches those on the title or primary ownership document) inspection is also required for out-of-state vehicles being titled in Oregon.
Oregon Driver's License
Oregon Driver's License A driver license must be obtained as soon as residency in the state has been established. With a valid, unexpired license from another state and a good driving record, only the written and vision tests are required.
Oregon lawmakers in early 2008 blocked illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses, transforming some of the nation's most lenient licensing rules into the state's harshest sanctions against undocumented workers.
Here are the new rules:
People who were never issued a Social Security number must sign a statement saying so and must offer up other identification such as a U.S. passport. If you don't have a Social Security number and you are a legal immigrant or visitor, you will need one of these documents: Immigrant visa, ID document issued by U. S. Department of homeland Security, or a U.S. foreign passport.
Fees will increase to help pay for the changes, estimated to cost about $2 million this budget period and $1.8 million in 2009-11. A original regular Class C driver's license costs $60, renewal $40, new ID card $44.50, renewal of the card $40.50. A license is valid for eight years except for temporary visitors which is is shorter.
Oregon College Saving Program
In January of 2001 Oregonians may begin to invest in the Oregon College Savings Plan. This state-sponsored plan meets the federal qualifications for special tax status as a Qualified Tuition Savings Program (QTSP).
Oregon residents can deduct up to $2,000 per year from their Oregon taxable income ($1,000 if married and filing separately). Contributions made until April 15th qualify for a deduction for the previous year.
Oregon law also provides a four-year "carry forward" state tax deduction up to $8,000 (or $4,000 for a married account owner filing separately). For example, if an account owner who is married and filing jointly contributes $10,000, he or she may take a $2,000 state tax deduction that year and for each of the following four years.
For more information or to enroll see Oregon College Savings or call 1-86-OR-Savings (866-772-8464).