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A Life of Tax: What will Americans pay in tax over their lifetime?

The U.S. government collected over $4.9 trillion in taxes in 2022, [1] U.S. Treasury Fiscal Data, ‘How much revenue has the U.S. government collected this year?’ but how much will the average American pay in taxes throughout their lifetime?

Using expenditure and income data from sources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as average home prices and automotive costs, we’ve analyzed just how much tax the average person is estimated to pay in each state.

Key statistics

  • The average American will pay $532,910 in taxes throughout their lifetime.
  • That’s a third (33.23%) of all estimated lifetime earnings ($1,571,244) spent on taxes.
  • Residents of New Jersey will pay the most in lifetime taxes ($1,168,919) and people in Wyoming will pay the least ($338,079).
  • Tax on earnings is where most tax will come from, with the average American paying $287,901 in a lifetime.
  • Owning the average passenger car will cost an additional $25,714 in tax payments alone, across the average 9.4 cars owned in a lifetime.
  • Tax on property will set the average homeowner back an additional $144,553 on top of the purchase price and running costs. 
  • Taxpayers in Washington will pay the most on everyday expenses ($113,718), followed by those in California ($113,205), accounting for food, clothing, personal care, and entertainment.

Which states will pay the most in taxes over their lifetime?

Total Earnings Personal spending Property Cars

Which states pay the most in taxes compared to their lifetime earnings?

Taxpayers in New Jersey are estimated to pay a total of $1,168,919 in taxes over their lifetime, which amounts to 59.66% of their lifetime earnings, the highest of any state. This represents an increase of 12.86% in lifetime taxes from $1,035,725 when this study was last conducted in 2022. Factors contributing to this increase will include rising property prices and inflation, which led to higher personal expenditures and an increased cost of living.

Conversely, residents of Wyoming pay the lowest total taxes in the U.S., amounting to $338,079, or approximately 24.24% of their lifetime earnings. However, it is those living and working in Alaska who will pay the lowest percentage of tax proportional to their lifetime earnings, at just $360,839, the equivalent of 21.95%.

In the table below you can see a state-by-state breakdown of the average lifetime earnings compared to estimated lifetime taxes, and the percentage of earnings that will go toward tax payments.

State Lifetime Earnings Lifetime Taxes % of Earnings on Tax
New Jersey $1,959,223 $1,168,919 59.66%
Connecticut $1,782,575 $952,233 53.42%
Massachusetts $1,985,152 $938,874 47.29%
Washington $1,838,977 $778,416 42.33%
Maryland $1,979,864 $816,123 41.22%
California $1,640,787 $671,582 40.93%
Vermont $1,576,473 $644,087 40.86%
District of Columbia $2,837,996 $1,150,126 40.53%
Rhode Island $1,640,787 $659,076 40.17%
Illinois $1,625,629 $648,791 39.91%
Colorado $1,755,431 $697,471 39.73%
New Hampshire $1,789,077 $680,928 38.06%
Maine $1,555,949 $582,125 37.41%
New York $1,702,320 $635,031 37.30%
Nebraska $1,523,557 $567,902 37.27%
Kansas $1,491,165 $522,664 35.05%
Minnesota $1,717,634 $589,970 34.35%
Oregon $1,569,188 $532,208 33.92%
Iowa $1,530,215 $517,134 33.79%
Idaho $1,368,569 $462,278 33.78%
Utah $1,461,946 $486,583 33.28%
Michigan $1,459,321 $474,720 32.53%
Pennsylvania $1,605,222 $515,705 32.13%
New Mexico $1,336,921 $423,435 31.67%
Missouri $1,452,467 $457,257 31.48%
Ohio $1,496,766 $470,515 31.44%
Wisconsin $1,593,276 $499,736 31.37%
Montana $1,381,534 $426,505 30.87%
Oklahoma $1,349,729 $413,757 30.65%
North Carolina $1,457,755 $444,260 30.48%
Texas $1,490,695 $447,909 30.05%
Virginia $1,721,943 $512,967 29.79%
Georgia $1,469,270 $437,086 29.75%
Arkansas $1,326,581 $393,327 29.65%
Hawaii $1,590,025 $467,318 29.39%
Arizona $1,528,453 $442,965 28.98%
South Carolina $1,409,539 $400,584 28.42%
Kentucky $1,368,060 $382,865 27.99%
Mississippi $1,262,855 $351,802 27.86%
North Dakota $1,544,708 $426,172 27.59%
Indiana $1,488,306 $409,730 27.53%
Nevada $1,451,253 $399,516 27.53%
Louisiana $1,366,807 $374,147 27.37%
Alabama $1,367,942 $362,333 26.49%
Tennessee $1,436,016 $380,090 26.47%
West Virginia $1,321,489 $345,052 26.11%
Florida $1,409,930 $364,657 25.86%
South Dakota $1,455,052 $373,056 25.64%
Wyoming $1,394,890 $338,079 24.24%
Delaware $1,620,537 $379,518 23.42%
Alaska $1,643,568 $360,839 21.95%

These figures were calculated by adding both federal and state lifetime taxes across earnings, sales, property, and automotive, then compared against an estimated lifetime earnings figure based on the results of the latest American Community Survey (with inflation applied to 2023) and multiplied by the average years worked in the U.S. (36 years). [2] Journal of Forensic Economics, ‘Total Worklife Expectancy’ The full breakdown of what went into this study can be read in the methodology below.

How much tax will the average American pay in their lifetime?

The average taxpayer in the U.S. will spend 33.23% ($532,910) of their lifetime earnings ($1,571,244) on various state and federal taxes. However, due to local property markets, salaries, and government actions, some states see taxpayers paying even more than the national average.

You can see the average American’s lifetime tax breakdown in the following chart:


This study takes individual median earning information from the American Community Survey (2021) per state [3] United States Census Bureau, ‘American Community Surve’$0400000 and applies inflation to bring estimates up to 2023 based on salary growth estimates of 4.2% in 2022 and 4.6% in 2023. [4] WTW, ‘U.S. pay increases to hit 4.6% in 2023, WTW survey finds’

The tax paid on earnings is based on state-level tax [5] Tax Foundation, ‘State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2023’ and federal income taxes when applied to the average salaries in each state. Alaska does not implement a state income tax. A working lifetime of 36 years was used to analyze income taxes based on data from the study ‘Total Worklife Expectancy’ in the Journal of Forensic Economics. [2] Journal of Forensic Economics, ‘Total Worklife Expectancy’

Personal expenditure data comes from the Consumer Expenditure Report (2021) [7] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Consumer Expenditure Survey’ from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, specifically census regional spending on food, apparel, personal care, and entertainment per year. Expenditure is divided by 1.3, the average number of earners in a household in 2021 [8] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Table 1203. Income before taxes: Shares of annual aggregate expenditures and sources of income, Consumer Expenditure Surveys, 2021’ to reflect an expenditure for one individual. The CPI Inflation Calculator was used to make expenditure applicable to January 2023. State-specific taxes were applied to expenditure.

Property tax was calculated by using the cost of a single-family home in each state taken on the 31st January 2023, from Zillow. [9] Zillow, ‘Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI): ZHVI Single-Family Homes Time Series ($)’ An individual was assumed to own property from 36 (the age of the average first-time homebuyer) [10] National Association of Realtors®, ‘NAR Finds Share of First-Time Home Buyers Smaller, Older Than Ever Before’ to 79.7 (the average life expectancy). [11] United Nations, Life Expectancy Some states have exemptions or rules of no property tax for those aged 65+, [12] Property Club, ‘States With No Property Taxes’ this has been applied in the calculation in those states.

The study takes the age an individual can acquire a full license in each state up to the recommended driving age as dictated by the CDC. [13] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ‘Older Adult Drivers’ The study uses the average value ($26,220) of a Toyota Camry LE four-door sedan, the highest-selling passenger car of 2022. [14] MotorBiscuit, ‘The Toyota Camry Is 2022’s Best-Selling Car’ Car owners were assumed to own an average of 9.4 cars over a lifetime. [15] CNBC, ‘Americans Buying Fewer New Cars in Lifetime’

Car property tax was taken from a WalletHub study [16] WalletHub, ‘2023’s Property Taxes by State’ analyzing this average cost in each state based on respective Department of Motor Vehicles data using weighted averages based on population size in cities and counties that account for at least 50% of a state’s population.

Inheritance tax was excluded from this study as it was deemed the average American would not have to pay this due to inheritance thresholds not being exceeded. Only six states have an inheritance tax and according to 2021 data from the IRS just 0.2% of U.S. adults who die have owed estate tax in recent years. [17] Internal Revenue Service, ‘Taxable Estate Tax Returns as a Percentage of Adult Deaths, Selected Years of Death’

Marriage and its effect on taxes were also not applied to this study as it did not impact taxes in the vast majority of cases representing the average American taxpayer.

This study was initially run in February 2021, then March 2022, and updated again in March 2023.


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