“Oregon’s property tax system is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. It permanently locks in inequalities, it doesn’t reflect at all the market value, and over time it can get persistently worse.”
Steven Sheffrin, Director of the Center for State and Local Taxation at the University of California, Davis.
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.
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 State of Oregon does not impose:
- Motor vehicle excise tax
- Business and occupations tax
- Direct levies on intangible property such as stocks, bonds, or securities.
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:
- One of the highest income tax rates in the nation — Oregon is usually in the top five.
- One of five states without a sales tax.
- A statewide cap on property taxes limits how much local governments can raise rates each year.
- Oregon’s “kicker law.”
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.
Oregon Individual Income Taxes
The Oregon Department of Revenue has a page called “Moving to Oregon FAQ” which explains Oregon income taxes. Here is the link: Frequently Asked Questions About Oregon Income Taxes.
All forms can be downloaded as blank, fillable forms, and can be completed online. Visit Forms and Instructions.
Finance Website Study says Oregon has Second-Fairest Tax System in U.S.
Oregon’s tax system takes a lot of hits, from business figures who think high income taxes discourage investment to seniors who say it’s a struggle to pay property taxes on a fixed income.
But a study released in September 2014 from Wallet Hub, a personal finance website, says that Oregon’s tax system is the second-best in the country when it comes to following principles of fairness — as determined in a survey of adults around the country describing how much an ideal state and local tax system should take from various income groups. In large part, survey respondents say a tax system should be progressive, meaning it takes a larger bite as you move up on the income ladder.
Oregon ranked near the top of the Wallet Hub study — it was second only to Montana — because it doesn’t have a sales tax and relies heavily on income taxes. Sales taxes tend to take a larger share of the income of poorer residents while income taxes tend to hit wealthier taxpayers more heavily.
Tax Burden: How Oregon Compares
The Oregon Legislative Revenue Office Tax Report for 2013 The most comprehensive way to compare Oregon’s current revenue system with other states is to examine the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics on state and local government finance. These data include all state and local revenue sources (and expenditures) collected on a consistent basis from all states.The most recent data are for the 2009-10 fiscal year, released in September of 2012. You can download the report by clicking here. Below are some of the findings:
- Oregon state and local governments collected $3,420 per person in taxes in the 2009-10 fiscal year. This ranked the state 35th in overall per person tax burden.
- In 2008-09, Oregon ranked #39 among the states in overall per capita tax burden.
- Oregon ranks 24th among the states with $2,074 in federal revenue (this category does not include federal revenue going directly to individuals such as Social Security benefits).
- Oregon is relatively dependent on charges for services, ranking 10th with $1,551 in per person revenue.
- Oregon also ranks relatively high in the miscellaneous (#18) and government enterprise categories (#21). The state’s extensive use of lottery revenue accounts for the former while the existence of a state run liquor monopoly is a major factor in the latter.
- Oregon’s overall state and local tax burden ranks 35th on a per person basis. However, the state
- personal income tax burden is among the highest in the nation at $1,289 per person.
- The ranking for corporate income taxes is right in the middle among the states at #25, following the imposition of Measure 67.
- Property taxes are also near the middle of the states, ranking # 26. For the first time in two decades, property taxes were nearly equal to personal income taxes in 2009-10.
- The state tax burden on consumption (general sales plus selective sales) is the lowest in the country. In addition to being one of five states without a general sales tax, Oregon ranks 42nd in selective sales tax collections per person. Selective sales taxes include gasoline taxes, tobacco taxes, alcoholic beverage taxes, real estate transfer taxes and other excise taxes on specific purchases.
Tax Foundation: Oregon 16th Highest Tax Burden in U.S. and has 3rd Highest Tax Rate
Oregonians have spent more of their incomes on taxes than Americans on average. The latest figures are from 2011 and illustrate state and local tax burdens on people nationwide. Oregonians on average paid about ten percent of their incomes in state and local taxes.
The study from the non-profit Tax Foundation found Oregon has the 16th highest tax burden in the country. New Yorkers paid the highest percentage of their incomes overall, and residents of Wyoming the lowest.
Since states have different tax structures, the study took into account all the different ways that state, city, and county governments tax their residents. That way, the Tax Foundation says its comparison was apples-to-apples.
Among states that levy a personal income tax, Oregon’s top rate ranks third highest, according to a Tax Foundation study released in April 2014.
The state’s 9.9 percent top rate is behind only California’s 13.3 percent and Hawaii’s 11 percent rates. Oregon’s 9.9 percent top rate is applied to a single filer with a taxable income greater than $125,000.
Income tax rates are complicated and variable by state. Nine states have no income tax on wages. Some use a flat rate that treats all income the same. California and Hawaii were one and two.
Federation of Tax Administrators
For 2010, Oregon tax is $3,419 per capita (rank of 36th). At a rate of 9.8% of personal income, the state ranks 36th. The Federation of Tax Administrators uses numbers from the U.S. Bureau of the Census and Bureau of Economic Analysis. With the new rates approved by the Legislature in 2009, Oregon now ties with Hawaii for the nation’s highest income tax rates.
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%.
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.
Measure 66 Raises Taxes on High Income Oregonians
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.
Long-Term Capital Gain Tax: Oregon 6th Highest in USA/OECD Countries
In October 2013 the Motley Fool website examined long-term capital gains taxes, or taxes that are assessed on individuals or business for profits earned on the sale of investments or through the disposition of property. For this data they relied on a study conducted by The Tax Foundation that includes all member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as well as all 50 U.S. states, broken down by their state long-term capital gains tax and adding in federal taxes as well. By doing this, you can get a more realistic view of which 10 states and countries (between the U.S. and OECD) really are the most stringent when it comes to capital gains taxes.
Only three countries − Denmark, France, and Finland — fall among the top ten highest long-term capital gains rates, with seven U.S. states making up the difference. Comparatively speaking, the average capital gains tax in the U.S. (27.9%) when taking into account all 50 states is 70% higher than the average capital gains tax rate of all OECD countries (16.4%). In fact, 21 OECD countries are boasting a lower capital gains tax rate than the lowest rate you’ll find in any state in the nation.
Oregon made the list coming in at sixth place.
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.
ITEP: All Tax Systems are Regressive
Every two years, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) publishes a study called Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States. The fifth edition was released in January 2015. The report “assess[es] the fairness of state and local tax systems by measuring the state and local taxes that will be paid in 2015 by different income groups as a share of their incomes.” The report’s key measure is the effective tax rate faced by various income groups when we consider state and local property, sales, excise, individual income, and corporate income taxes. Somewhat surprisingly, ITEP finds that every single state tax system is regressive, taxing lower income individuals more than they tax the wealthy.
- The Retirement Living Information Center website 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.
- 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 Corporate Taxes and Business Climate
The Tax Foundation ranked Oregon 12th in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index in their 2014 report. The Index compares the states in five areas of taxation that impact business: corporate taxes, individual income taxes, sales taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, and taxes on property, including residential and commercial property. To read the report you have to make a donation to the Tax Foundation; You can read the 2013 State Business Tax Climate Index without making a donation.
Council on State Taxation: Oregon Provides Best Value
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 Raises Taxes on Corporations
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.
Utah topped the rankings, followed by Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and Washington. Maine placed last.
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
- Oregon’s corporate income tax rate of 6.6% is 16th-lowest in the nation. California’s rate of 8.8% ranks it seventh-highest.
- Oregon collects $120 per capita in corporate taxes, while California hauls in $286
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 about the Amtrak Act at the Oregon Department of Revenue website.
Retirees: What Income is Taxed in Oregon
Most retirement income is subject to Oregon tax when received by an Oregon resident. This is true even if you were a nonresident when you earned the income. However, you may subtract some or all of your federal pension income from Oregon income. Retirees can visit the Oregon Department of Revenue website to calculate what you would pay.
Oregon does not tax your retirement income if you are a nonresident who is not domiciled in Oregon. If you are an Oregon nonresident who is still domiciled in Oregon, any Oregon-source retirement income is taxable by Oregon. This applies to most forms of retirement income taxed by Oregon, including public pension plans, corporate retirement plans, Keogh plans, simplified employee pensions (SEPs), and IRAs. For the definition of “domicile,” see the Residency section.
Oregon does not tax Social Security, Veteran Administration benefits, or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
Medical Expenses and Oregon Taxes
Oregon was the only state in the nation that allowed anyone 62 or older to combine state and federal rules to deduct the full cost of their medical expenses on their taxes. That changed in 2013 when the special session of the legislature changed the deduction to a subtraction. Here are the new regs:
- Sets subtraction cap per age eligible filer based on adjusted gross income:
- $1,800 for joint filer with less than $50,000; $1,400 for joint filer with less than $100,000; $1,000 for joint filer with less than $200,000; $0 for joint filer with more than $200,000.
- Caps apply to single filers at half the joint filer income level.
- Increases age eligibility over time: 63 in 2014; 64 in 2016; 65 in 2018; 66 in 2020.
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
- 1990 – Measure 5: This measure limited tax rates to $15 per $1,000 of market value. Still in effect when assessed, or taxable, values are close to market values.
- 1996 – Measure 47: A key provision took assessed values for each property back to 1995, cut that figure by ten percent, then allowed taxable values to rise by three percent a year going forward. Allowed exceptions for tax levies approved in a November general election in even-numbered years or by half of registered voters at other times.
- 1997 – Measure 50: Clean-up measure drafted by the Legislature that clarified and implemented Measure 47. Exempted urban renewal taxes and Portland’s police and fire pension and disability levy from the cuts.
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 website 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
- Oregon Beer Tax The Oregon tax of $2.60 per 31-gallon barrel (8 cents a gallon) is the 46th lowest in the nation and which hasn’t been raised since 1977. That’s less than a penny for a 12-ounce beer. It in the bottom 20 percent in the nation and one-third of the national average which is 18.5 cents. Washington state’s beer tax is 26 cents a gallon and California taxes beer at the rate of 20 cents a gallon. Microbreweries (producers of less than 3.1 million gallons per year) account for 10 percent of the beer consumed in Oregon – the highest percentage in the nation.
- Oregon Wine Tax At 67 cents a gallon (13.4 cents for a fifth of wine), it ranks in the middle among states – the national average is 60 cents a gallon. It has not changed since 1983. Wine is sold in grocery stores, drug stores, wine shops, etc. Wineries also sell their product directly to the consumer.
- Distilled Spirits In Oregon, the state government directly controls the sales of distilled spirits. Revenue is generated from various taxes, fees and net liquor profits.
- Oregon Cigarette Tax At 1.31 cents a pack, it ranks among the top 20 states. Washington state taxes cigarettes at $3.025 a pack and only 4-5 states have higher cigarette taxes. In 2007, about 524,000 Oregonians − nearly one in five adults − smoke. Smoking was more common in Oregon than nationwide until 1998, but has become less common since.
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:
- Either show your Social Security card or write in on the application. The Department of Motor personnel will verify your Social Security number on their computers while you wait.
- You must show proof of identity with one of these documents: U.S. birth certificate, driver’s license either from Oregon or another state, U.S. passport, or U.S. military ID. Foreign birth certificates and consular ID cards — popular with many illegal immigrants — no longer are accepted as proof of identification.
- The bill gives the state explicit authority to check a driver’s legal status. It also grants DMV discretion to issue temporary licenses to some people.
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).