Budget & Tax

Considering both income and property taxes in ‘Oklahoma vs. Texas’ comparisons

May 7, 2014

Jonathan Small

In discussions about whether to reduce and eventually eliminate Oklahoma’s penalty on work — our state’s personal income tax — it’s often mentioned that Texas, our neighbor to the south, is an income-tax-free state.

Some suggest, though, that simply moving from Oklahoma, with its 5.25 percent penalty on work, to Texas, where citizens aren’t assessed a state tax on their earnings, won’t save you any money. They claim Texas’ higher property tax rates offset any income tax savings.

Let’s blow up that notion real quick.

The median property tax payment, in raw dollars, in Oklahoma currently is $796, as opposed to $2,275 in Texas, according to tax-rates.org. That’s a savings of $1,479 for the average Oklahoma homeowner.

But that’s not the full picture.

In 2013, Oklahoma per capita income was $41,586, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. An analysis at the website Save Taxes By Moving shows that if the average Oklahoma wage earner moved from Oklahoma to Texas, he or she would save $1,608 a year.

That’s enough on its own to make up for the property tax hit, but we’re not done yet.

Per capita income in Texas in 2013 was $43,552, or $1,966 more than in Oklahoma. Add that to the savings from paying no income tax. Then, even when you factor in the higher property tax payment in Texas, the average Oklahoma worker would still save roughly $2,095 a year by moving to Texas.

True, there are other factors to consider. Average home prices are higher in Texas than in Oklahoma. At the same time, Texas charges no sales tax on groceries, while Oklahoma does.

Additional factors in which Oklahoma has ranked better than Texas include cost of living and cost of doing business, according to a 2013 CNBC ranking of “America’s Best States for Business.” Texas ranked higher than Oklahoma, however, in its economy, infrastructure, education, workforce, access to capital, and business friendliness. All on a no-income-tax budget.

One secret in the sauce in Texas could be that, according to an analysis by the Kansas Policy Institute, Texas ranked third among all 50 states in lowest estimated total state government spending per resident. Oklahoma ranked 18th — not nearly as efficient in its allocation of taxpayer dollars.

For cost of living, Oklahoma rated best in the nation, according to the CNBC rankings. Texas was not far behind, in ninth place.

It would appear that, when both income taxes and property taxes are considered, the average Texan still comes out ahead, compared to their cousins in Oklahoma.

As these savings accrue over a lifetime, the benefit becomes more pronounced, potentially reaching hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, simply by living and working in one location as opposed to another. For job creators both large and small, these cost savings are often paramount in making decisions on where to locate. Recent moves to Texas by Toyota, Office Depot, and others would seem to confirm this.