Personal finance publication Kiplinger has ranked all U.S. states to determine which is the most, and the least, tax-friendly, based on the tax burden placed on residents. According to the publication, Wyoming is the most tax-friendly. Illinois takes the bottom spot least tax-friendly, primarily due to the property tax burden.
According to Kiplinger, Illinois averages $2,048 in property taxes per $100,000 of home value, compared to $635 for Wyoming. Illinois wasn’t the only Midwestern state to land in the 10 worst spots, as Wisconsin was ranked 4th least friendly, Ohio 8th, and Iowa 9th.
In fact, a summary by Kiplinger of Illinois’ tax environment states:
“Illinois’ economic woes are one reason why the Prairie State tops our list of the least tax-friendly states in the country. The state ranks #50 in the latest ranking of states’ fiscal health by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and residents are paying the price with higher taxes.
The state’s 4.95 percent flat income tax rate actually isn’t that high when compared to other states, but other taxes are a doozy. For example, property taxes in Illinois are the second-highest in the nation. On a $400,000 home in the state, the average annual property tax bill would be an eye-popping $9,634.
Sales taxes are high, too. In some municipalities, combined state and local sales taxes exceed 10 percent . Most states exempt food and drugs from their sales tax, but that’s not the case in Illinois.”
For more information, visit https://www.kiplinger.com/tool/taxes/T055-S001-kiplinger-tax-map/index.php.
Salary history law in effect
On Sept. 29 a new law took effect that bans employers from asking applicants about their salary history. Proponents of the new law believe it will reduce the wage disparity for female and minority workers.
Under the new law, applicants will be allowed to volunteer salary history, but employers cannot use the information to make hiring decisions. Violations of the law could result in fines up to $10,000.
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month
Throughout October, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology are working with local municipal agencies to raise awareness of cyber-security issues and to help educate people on how to stay safe online.
Security tips from the agencies include:
• Configure your computer securely.
• Use privacy and security settings in your software, email system, and web browsers.
• Regularly update your anti-virus software to identify and thwart new strains of malicious software.
• Keep software, and operating systems updated. Install all software updates as soon as they are available. Using the “auto-update” setting is the best way to ensure timely updates.
• Use strong passwords.
• Cybercriminals use automated programs that will try every word in the dictionary in a few minutes. When creating a password, use at least 10 characters, with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
• Be cautious about links and attachments. Even communications you receive that appear to be from friends and family may contain links to malicious sites, so be careful when clicking on links in those messages. When in doubt, delete it.
For more information, visit https://www2.illinois.gov/ready/Pages/default.aspx.
Heating help begins
The enrollment period for the state’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) opened earlier this week. The program offers assistance with heating bills for households at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. That income level ranges from around $1,500 per month for a single person to just over $3,200 per month for a family of four.
On Oct. 1 enrollment opened for seniors ages 60 and older, as well as households that contain a member who is disabled, who receives a permanent disability benefit. On November 1 enrollment expands to households with children younger than six and homes where service has been or will soon be cut off. After December 1 all other qualifying households may apply. For more information, visit https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/communityservices/utilitybillassistance/.
Harvest could be tough
While most Illinois farmers are still waiting to begin their harvest, the USDA has released slightly optimistic news in terms of the quality of the corn crop. So far, only 4 percent of the state’s corn has been harvested compared to 45 percent at the same time in 2018.
In terms of crop quality, the USDA is now rating 47 percent of the state’s corn as good or excellent, a slight bump from just 45 percent last week. Crop quality is still down significantly year-over-year however, as 80 percent of the corn crop was rated as good or excellent at the same point in 2018.
In August the USDA declared an agriculture disaster for all 102 Illinois counties in response to a request for federal aid from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, due to damage caused by heavy spring rains and historic flooding that delayed or stopped planting in many fields.
If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, please visit my website at www.senatorstewart.com and use the form to send me an e-mail.