Tax Freedom Day – the date on the calendar when a foundation says Americans will have earned enough to cover their annual tax debt – is set for April 17.

That’s unless you’re in Maine or 13 other states, which the Tax Foundation says are a bit greedier when it comes to your money.

In Maine, tax freedom will arrive on April 23, the foundation says. It ranks the state No. 1 for its state and local tax burdens, or 13 percent of the average Mainer’s income. The foundation ranks the state No. 6 overall when federal taxes are considered.

Christopher St. John and Gov. John Baldacci disagree with the No. 1 ranking, in particular.

St. John, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy, says the foundation bases its findings “on faulty data.”

“They count as taxes certain items that are not taxes, such as Medicare premiums,” he explains. “They count taxes paid on capital gains but ignore the capital gains income.”

The foundation also relies on the U.S. Census Bureau for much of its data, St. John said.

And it doesn’t properly calculate the effects of taxes paid in Maine by people who live elsewhere.

In short, the foundation’s math “is skewed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Baldacci’s office says U.S. Census findings show the state’s tax burden has been declining. Its local taxes, particularly property taxes, that have gone up, the governor maintains.

He said the foundation hasn’t taken into consideration that the state is putting up $350 million in property tax reduction and relief funding to ease the bite.

The office also said Maine Revenue Services estimated the average tax burden on residents was 11.3 percent in 2002, while the burden on the median household was estimated at 12 percent, “well below the Census and Tax Foundation estimates.”

The Census estimates are wrong anyway, according to St. John. The bureau overestimates total property taxes paid in Maine and fails to properly account for the unusually high proportion of Maine property taxes paid by nonresidents.

Faulty Census figures have prompted the state to begin working toward becoming the collection agency for those statistics, St. John said. By collecting the numbers, Maine will have a bit of control over their accuracy, he said.

Others also are critical of the Tax Foundation and its methods.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington issued a statement saying the findings “do not reflect actual tax collections,” but are merely based on estimates and projections “largely derived from years-old data.”

The center also says the foundation, in coming up with its findings, uses a methodology that has never been published or subject to outside review.

St. John cited the center’s work when he questioned the foundation’s findings.

The Tax Foundation, however, dismissed the center as a “Washington think tank dedicated to a progressive agenda that typically focuses on defending and expanding government spending programs.”

The foundation called the center’s criticism “politically motivated” and unsupported “on economic grounds.”


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