Deciding Where to Retire: Finding a Tax-friendly State to Call Home

2018 Whole Ball Of Tax

Wolters Kluwer Outlines State Tax Considerations for Retirees

(NEW YORK, NY, January 2018) — Whether you're looking to stay put, seeking out adventure or just hoping for a warmer climate in your golden years, how much of your retirement income goes to taxes depends not just on how much income your nest egg earns, but also on where you choose to live. A little pre-retirement homework on state tax treatments of retirement benefits and other financial factors can be a key step in deciding where to establish new, post-career roots. Specific factors to consider include:

  • State taxes on retirement benefits
  • State income tax rates
  • State and local sales tax
  • State and local property taxes
  • State estate taxes

Taxability of Retirement Benefits Varies State to State

Currently, seven states do not tax individual income – retirement or otherwise: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

Two other states – New Hampshire and Tennessee – impose income taxes only on dividends and interest.

In the other 41 states and the District of Columbia, tax treatment of retirement benefits varies widely. For example, some states exempt all pension income or all Social Security income. Other states provide only partial exemption or credits and some tax all retirement income.

States exempting pension income entirely for qualified individuals are Illinois, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.

States that exempt or provide a credit for a portion of pension income include: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

States where pension income is taxed include: Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.

(See chart below for additional detail.)

Significant State Tax Reforms

States enacting changes to their income tax laws for retirement plans in 2017 include:

  • Arkansas: Military retirement and survivor benefits are now exempt. However, a taxpayer claiming the exemption may not claim the $6,000 exemption on retirement benefits received from non-military sources. ( Change is effective beginning with 2018 tax year.)
  • Connecticut: A complete deduction for retirement income will be phased-in from 2019 to 2025, the income thresholds for the Social Security deduction are increased beginning in 2019, and the increase in the teacher retirement system deduction (25% to 50%) is delayed until 2019. In addition, withholding is now required from pension or annuity distributions to Connecticut residents if the payer maintains an office or transacts business in the state. ( Change regarding withholding is effective beginning with 2018 tax year.)
  • Indiana: A $6,250 deduction is available for military retirement and survivor's benefits. The $5,000 deduction for non-retirement military income, which was previously a combined deduction including military income and military retirement benefits, is retained. ( Change is effective beginning with 2018 tax year.)
  • Kansas: Self-employed taxpayers may now claim the federal deduction for pension, profit-sharing, and annuity plans on their Kansas return. ( Change is effective beginning with 2017 tax year.)
  • Maine: The deduction for certain dentists' military pensions is repealed. ( Change is effective retroactively beginning with 2016 tax year.)
  • Maryland: Retired law enforcement, fire and rescue, or emergency services personnel who are at least 55 years old may exclude up to $15,000 of retirement income from taxable income. ( Change is effective beginning with 2017 tax year.)
  • Michigan: The deduction for retirement benefits received for services in the U.S. armed forces is expanded to include pension benefits. In addition, an increased deduction for retirement or pension benefits from governmental employment is allowed for taxpayers born after 1945 who retired by 2013. ( Change is effective beginning with 2018 tax year.)
  • Minnesota: A portion of Social Security benefits may be deducted. The maximum deduction is $4,500 for married couples filing joint returns, $3,500 for single and head of household filers, and $2,250 for married couples filing separate returns. ( Change is effective beginning with 2017 tax year.)
  • New York: Distributions from a retirement plan may be deductible if used to pay for repairs to a primary residence in certain New York counties because of damage by above average precipitation and snow melt in April and May 2017. ( Change is effective beginning with 2017 tax year.)
  • Utah: Small employers (10 to 19 employees) may claim a $500 tax credit for offering a qualified employee retirement plan. ( Change is effective for 2018 tax year only.)
  • West Virginia: Military retirement income is exempt from tax. ( Change is effective beginning with 2018 tax year.)
  • Wisconsin: Taxpayers over 70½ years of age may now make tax-free distributions from an IRA directly to a charitable organization. ( Change is effective beginning with 2018 tax year.)

While some states tax pension benefits, only 13 states impose tax on Social Security income: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia. These states either tax Social Security income to the same extent that the federal government does or provide limited breaks for Social Security income, often for lower-income individuals.

(See chart below for full detail on State Taxation of Retirement Income.)

State Income, Property, Sales Taxes Can Add Up

In addition to state taxes on retirement benefits, other taxes to consider when evaluating financial factors on where to retire include:

  • State income tax rates: For example, income tax rates also can have a significant financial impact on retirees in determining where they want to live and can vary widely across the country.

    While seven states have no income tax and two tax only interest and dividend income, several have a relatively low income tax rate across all income levels. For example, the highest marginal income tax rates in Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota and Ohio are below 5 percent. Some states have a relatively low flat tax regardless of income, with the five lowest: Colorado (4.63 percent), Illinois (4.95 percent), Indiana (3.23 percent), Michigan (4.25 percent) and Pennsylvania (3.07 percent) for 2018.
  • State and local sales taxes: Forty-five states and the District of Columbia impose a state sales and use tax (only Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon do not impose a state sales and use tax, although some Alaska localities do). States with a relatively high state sales tax rate of 7 percent include Indiana, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. California has a state sales tax rate of 7.25 percent. Local sales and use taxes, imposed by cities, counties and other special taxing jurisdictions, such as fire protection and library districts, also can add significantly to the rate. (View the Top 10 Highest & Lowest State Sales Taxes.)
  • State and local property taxes: While property values had declined for several years after 2008 in many areas, it has not necessarily been the case for property taxes. However, many states and some local jurisdictions offer senior citizen homeowners some form of property tax exemption, credit, abatement, tax deferral, refund or other benefits. These tax breaks also are available to renters in some jurisdictions. The benefits typically have qualifying restrictions that include age and income of the beneficiary.
  • State estate taxes: Estate taxes also can influence where seniors want to retire. Rules vary from state to state, as well as from federal estate tax laws. While some states, such as Hawaii and Maine, follow the federal exclusion amount, others do not. The latter category includes Illinois ($4 million), Massachusetts ($1 million), and New York ($5,250,000 for deaths on or after April 1, 2017, and before January 1, 2019; to increase to the federal exclusion amount in 2019).

Other states, including Arizona, Kansas and Oklahoma, no longer impose an estate tax. Still others, like California and Florida, technically still have such a tax on their books, but collect no revenue because their tax is based on the now-repealed federal credit for state death taxes. In general, this is an area of the law that has been in a considerable state of flux in recent years and will probably continue to be so in the foreseeable future.

State Taxation of Retirement Income

The following chart shows generally which states tax retirement income, including Social Security and pension income for the 2017 tax year unless otherwise noted.

State State Tax of Social Security Income State Tax of Pension Income
Alabama Not taxed Exemption for defined benefit plans
Alaska No individual income tax No individual income tax
Arizona Not taxed Generally taxable
Arkansas Not taxed Exempt to certain level
California Not taxed Generally taxable
Colorado Exempt to a certain level; age restrictions apply Exempt to a certain level; age restrictions apply
Connecticut Exemption based on adjusted gross income (AGI) Generally taxable (beginning in 2019, exempt to a certain level; income restrictions apply)
Delaware Not taxed Exempt to a certain level; age restrictions apply
District of Columbia Not taxed Generally taxable
Florida No individual income tax No individual income tax
Georgia Not taxed Exempt to a certain level; age restrictions apply
Hawaii Not taxed Distributions are partially exempt
Idaho Not taxed Generally taxable
Illinois Not taxed All income from federally qualified pension plans are generally exempt
Indiana Not taxed Generally taxable
Iowa Not taxed Exempt to a certain level; age restrictions apply
Kansas Exemption based on AGI Generally taxable
Kentucky Not taxed Exempt to a certain level
Louisiana Not taxed Exempt to a certain level; age restrictions apply
Maine Not taxed Exempt to a certain level
Maryland Not taxed Exempt to a certain level; age restrictions apply
Massachusetts Not taxed Generally taxable
Michigan Not taxed Exempt to a certain level; age restrictions apply
Minnesota Exempt to a certain level Generally taxable
Mississippi Not taxed Not taxed
Missouri Exemption based on AGI Exempt to a certain level; income restrictions apply
Montana Exemption based on AGI Exempt to a certain level; income restrictions apply
Nebraska Exemption based on AGI Generally taxable
Nevada No individual income tax No individual income tax
New Hampshire Only dividends and interest are taxable Only dividends and interest are taxable
New Jersey Social Security excluded from gross income Exempt to a certain level; age and income restrictions apply
New Mexico Taxed Exempt to a certain level; age and income restrictions apply
New York Not taxed Exempt to a certain level; age restrictions apply
North Carolina Not taxed Generally taxable
North Dakota Taxed Generally taxable
Ohio Not taxed Credits for pension distribution or income allowed; age restrictions apply
Oklahoma Not taxed Exempt to a certain level
Oregon Not taxed Credit for pension distribution or income allowed; age and income restrictions apply
Pennsylvania Not taxed Not taxed; age restrictions apply
Rhode Island Exemption based on AGI Exempt to a certain level; age and income restrictions apply
South Carolina Not taxed Exempt to a certain level; age restrictions apply
South Dakota No individual income tax No individual income tax
Tennessee Only dividends and interest are taxable Only dividends and interest are taxable; exemption available with age and income restrictions
Texas No individual income tax No individual income tax
Utah Taxed Partial credit for retirement income allowed; age and income restrictions apply
Vermont Taxed Generally taxable
Virginia Not taxed Exempt to a certain level; age and income restrictions apply
Washington No individual income tax No individual income tax
West Virginia Taxed Generally taxable
Wisconsin Not taxed Exempt to a certain level; age and income restrictions apply
Wyoming No individual income tax No individual income tax


State Tax Treatment of Social Security, Pension Income

The following chart provides a general overview of how states treat income from Social Security and pensions for the 2017 tax year unless otherwise noted. States shaded indicate they do not tax these forms of retirement income.

State Social Security Income Pension Income
Alabama State computation not based on federal. Social Security benefits excluded from taxable income. Payments from defined benefit plans exempt.
Alaska No individual income tax. No individual income tax.
Arizona Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Arkansas State computation not based on federal. Social Security benefits excluded from taxable income. Up to $6,000 total in retirement pay benefits and benefits received from an individual retirement account (IRA) is exempt.
California Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Colorado Pension income, including Social Security benefits, up to $24,000 may be subtracted from federal taxable income by those 65 and older, and up to $20,000 by those 55 through 64 years old. An individual taxpayer 55 through 64 years old can exclude up to $20,000 ($24,000 for a taxpayer aged 65 or older) in pension and annuity income.
Connecticut Joint filers and heads of households with AGIs under $60,000 ($100,000 beginning in 2019), and single filers and married taxpayers filing separately with AGIs under $50,000 ($75,000 beginning in 2019); deduct from federal AGI all Social Security income included for federal income tax purposes. Joint filers and heads of households with AGIs over $60,000, and single filers and married taxpayers filing separately with AGIs over $50,000, deduct the difference between the amount of Social Security benefits included for federal income tax purposes and the lesser of 25 percent of Social Security benefits received or 25 percent of the excess of the taxpayer's provisional income in excess of the specified base amount under IRC Sec. 86(b)(1). Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable (beginning in 2019, an individual taxpayer may deduct 14% of retirement income (increased gradually to 100% for 2025) if federal AGI is below (1) $75,000 for single filers, married taxpayers filing separately, and heads of households; and (2) $100,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly)
Delaware Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. An individual taxpayer younger than 60 may deduct pension amounts of up to $2,000, and a taxpayer 60 or older may deduct up to $12,500. Eligible amounts for a taxpayer 60 or older include dividends, capital gains, interest, rental income, and distributions from qualified retirement plans.
District of Columbia Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Florida No individual income tax. No individual income tax.
Georgia Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. An individual taxpayer age 62 to 64 may exclude up to $35,000 of retirement income; an individual 65 or older may exclude up to $65,000. Up to $4,000 of the maximum exclusion amount may be earned income.
Hawaii Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Distributions derived from employer contributions to pensions and profit-sharing plans are exempt.
Idaho Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Illinois Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Income from federally qualified retirement plans, IRAs, retirement payments to a retired partner, and certain capital gains on employer securities are excluded.
Indiana Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Iowa Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Married taxpayers age 55 or older filing a joint return may exclude up to $12,000 ($6,000 for an unmarried taxpayer) of pension benefits and other retirement pay. A special rule applies to a spouse filing separately.
Kansas Taxpayers with a federal AGI of $75,000 or less are exempt from any state tax on their Social Security benefits. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Kentucky Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Up to $41,110 of retirement income from a pension plan, annuity contract, profit-sharing plan, retirement plan or employee savings plan, including IRA amounts and other similar income, is exempt.
Louisiana Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Up to $6,000 of the pension and annuity income of an individual taxpayer 65 or older is exempt.
Maine Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. A recipient of retirement plan benefits under an employee retirement plan or an IRA may generally subtract from federal AGI the lesser of:
–$10,000, reduced by the total amount of the recipient's Social Security benefits and Railroad Retirement benefits paid; or
–The aggregate of retirement plan benefits received by the recipient under employee retirement plans or IRAs and included in the individual's federal AGI.
Maryland Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Up to $29,900, generally, in pension income (except income from an IRA, SEP or Keogh) is excludable for an individual taxpayer age 65 or older.
Massachusetts Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Michigan Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. For individuals born prior to 1946, up to $50,509 in pension and retirement income is deductible on a single return ($101,019 on a joint return). Individuals born from January 1, 1946, to January 1, 1951, can deduct up to $20,000 ($40,000 on a joint return) against all income, but cannot deduct pension and retirement benefits. For individuals born between January 2, 1951, and December 31, 1952, up to $20,000 in pension and retirement income is deductible on a single return ($40,000 on a joint return) in lieu of claiming the social security deduction and personal exemption.
Minnesota Social Security benefits up to $4,500 for joint filers, $3,500 for single and head of household filers, and $2,250 for married taxpayers filing separately may be subtracted from federal taxable income. The subtraction is reduced by 20% of provisional income over specified income thresholds. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Mississippi State computation not based on federal. Social Security benefits exempt in total. Retirement allowances, pensions, annuities or "optional retirement allowances" (income from Keogh plan, IRA or deferred compensation plan) are exempt.
Missouri Social Security benefits that are included in federal AGI may be subtracted. Married couples with Missouri AGI greater than $100,000 and single individuals with Missouri AGI greater than $85,000, may qualify for a partial deduction. Combined return filers with Missouri AGI less than $32,000, single filers with Missouri AGI less than $25,000, and married filers filing separately with Missouri AGI less than $16,000 may deduct $6,000 ($12,000 combined filers) of their private retirement benefits, to the extent the amounts are included in their federal AGI.
Partial exemptions available to taxpayers with income levels above the AGI limits listed above.
Montana Separate calculation to determine taxable Social Security benefits. Benefits exempt if income is $25,000 or less for single filers or heads of households, $32,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, and $16,000 for married taxpayers filing separately. For an individual taxpayer, up to $4,110 of pension and annuity income is exempt (reduced by $2 for every $1 of federal AGI that exceeds $34,262).
Nebraska Social Security benefits subtracted if taxpayer's federal AGI is less than or equal to $58,000 for joint filers or $43,000 for all other filers. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Nevada No individual income tax. No individual income tax.
New Hampshire Only dividends and interest are taxable. Only dividends and interest are taxable.
New Jersey State computation not based on federal. All Social Security benefits are excluded by statute from gross income. Taxpayers age 62 or older who did not receive Social Security benefits, but would have been eligible for benefits, may qualify for a special exclusion of up to $6,000 for joint filers, heads of household, or surviving spouses; or up to $3,000 for single filers or married taxpayers filing separately. Taxpayers age 62 or older with total income of $100,000 or less may exclude pensions, annuities, or IRA withdrawals of up to $40,000 for joint filers; $20,000 for married taxpayers filing separately; or $30,000 for a single taxpayer, a head of household, or a qualifying widow(er). Taxpayers who did not claim the maximum pension exclusion amount because pension income was less than the maximum exclusion amount for the taxpayer's filing status may use the unclaimed portion of the pension exclusion to exclude other types of income.
New Mexico State computation begins with federal AGI. No subtraction. An individual taxpayer age 65 or older may exempt up to $8,000 of income (100% of income if age 100 or older and not claimed as a dependent on another return), including pension income, depending upon the individual's filing status and federal AGI. Joint filers and head-of-household filers with AGI over $51,000, married taxpayers filing separately with AGI over $25,500, and single filers with AGI over $28,500 are not eligible for this exemption.
New York Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. For an individual taxpayer age 59½ or older, $20,000 of pension and annuity income is exempt.
North Carolina Social Security benefits subtracted from federal taxable income. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
North Dakota State computation begins with federal taxable income. No subtraction. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Ohio Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. A recipient of retirement income with an AGI of less than $100,000 may claim an annual credit ranging from $25 to $200, depending on the amount of retirement income received during the year. In lieu of the retirement income credit, taxpayers with an AGI of less than $100,000 receiving a lump-sum distribution on account of retirement (no age requirement) may claim a credit calculated using a formula based on the amount of retirement income received and the taxpayer's expected remaining life. Finally, in lieu of the $50 senior citizen income credit (credit eligibility is dependent on age not retirement income), an individual taxpayer age 65 or older with an AGI of less than $100,000 may claim a credit for a lump-sum distribution from a retirement, pension or profit-sharing plan equaling $50 times the taxpayer's expected remaining life years.
Oklahoma Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Up to $10,000 of retirement benefits from a private pension is exempt for an individual taxpayer, but not to exceed the amount included in federal AGI.
Oregon Social Security benefits subtracted from federal taxable income. An individual taxpayer age 62 or older with household income of less than $22,500 ($45,000 for joint filers), Social Security and/or Railroad Retirement benefits of less than $7,500 ($15,000 for joint filers), and household income plus Social Security and/or Railroad Retirement Board benefits of less than $22,500 ($45,000 for joint filers) may claim a credit for pension income equal to the lesser of 9 percent of the individual's net pension income or the individual's state personal income tax liability.
Pennsylvania State computation not based on federal. Social Security benefits not included in state taxable income. Retirement benefits received from eligible employer-sponsored retirement plans are generally exempt, including distributions from employer-sponsored deferred compensation plans, pension or profit sharing plans, 401(k) plans, thrift plans, thrift savings plans, and employee welfare plans. Distributions from an IRA are not taxable if the payments are received, including lump sum distributions, on or after reaching the age of 59½.
Rhode Island Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI if federal AGI is $81,575 or less for single, head of household, or married filing separate taxpayers; or $101,950 or less for married filing joint or qualified widow(er) taxpayers. Taxpayers who have reached the social security retirement age are eligible for a $15,000 exemption on their retirement income. This exemption applies to single taxpayers with federal AGI less than $80,000 and for joint taxpayers with federal AGI less than $100,000 that are otherwise qualified.
South Carolina Social Security benefits subtracted from federal taxable income. An individual taxpayer receiving retirement income may deduct up to $3,000. A taxpayer age 65 or older may deduct up to $10,000.
South Dakota No individual income tax. No individual income tax.
Tennessee Only dividends and interest are taxable. Only dividends and interest are taxable. Taxpayers 65 or older with total income from all sources of $37,000 or less ($68,000 or less for joint filers) are exempt.
Texas No individual income tax. No individual income tax.
Utah State computation begins with federal AGI. No subtraction. An eligible retiree age 65 or older is allowed a nonrefundable retirement credit of $450. The credit is phased out at 2.5 cents per dollar by which modified AGI exceeds $16,000 for married individuals filing separately, $25,000 for singles and $32,000 for heads of household and joint filers.
Vermont State computation begins with federal taxable income (federal AGI beginning in 2018). No subtraction. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable.
Virginia Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. A $12,000 deduction is available to an individual taxpayer born before 1939. For taxpayers 65 and older born after 1938, the deduction is reduced dollar for dollar for every $1 that the taxpayer's adjusted federal AGI exceeds $50,000 (combined $75,000 for married taxpayers).
Washington No individual income tax. No individual income tax.
West Virginia State computation begins with federal AGI. No subtraction. Individual taxpayer's pension income is generally taxable. However, subject to some qualification, an individual taxpayer who, by the last day of the tax year, has reached age 65 may deduct up to $8,000 to the extent that amount was includable in federal AGI.
Wisconsin Social Security benefits subtracted from federal AGI. Taxpayers age 65 or older may subtract up to $5,000 of income from a qualified retirement plan or from an IRA if federal AGI is less than $15,000 ($30,000 for married taxpayers).
Wyoming No individual income tax. No individual income tax.

SOURCE: Wolters Kluwer, 2018
Permission for use granted.


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