Wisconsin’s tax burden drop among the country’s largest since 1999

As a share of personal income, Wisconsin saw the largest drop in state and local taxes among any state in the country from 1999 to 2019, according to research from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

The state’s tax burden dropped from 12.16% of personal income in 1999 to 10.29% in 2019, the research found. The 1.87 percentage point decline is in the largest in the country over that period. Measured as a percentage change, the 15.4% drop trails only Florida, down 18.5%, and Michigan, down 15.5%.

Wisconsin also went from having the fourth-highest tax burden to the 23rd when measured as a share of personal income. In per capita terms, Wisconsin went from the sixth-highest burden at $3,288 to the 24th highest at $5,275.

A plurality of the decline in tax burden, 0.66 percentage points, came from a drop in individual income taxes while another 0.56 percentage points of the decline came from property taxes. General sales tax contributed 0.33 points to the decline and all other sources contributed 0.31 points. The research notes the falling burden is partially due to growth in personal income following the Great Recession.

The research also points out that since 2011 Wisconsin has generally restricted increased in municipal and county property tax, limited revenues for school districts and cut property taxes for technical colleges and personal property.

There have also been a number of changes to income taxes, including cuts to marginal rates, elimination of a tax bracket, exemptions for Social Security and most manufacturing and agriculture income, decreases in capital gains taxes along with other changes.

Wisconsin’s spending has also fallen, relative to other states. In 1999, state and local government spending was 19.6% of personal income, the 22nd highest in the country. In 2019, that figure had fallen to 18.8%, the 29th highest in the country.


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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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