Burden of state's high costs spurs migration, creative budgeting Moving may be only way to duck new Md. taxes

April 12, 1992|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Annapolis Bureau

Wherever you live in Maryland and whatever you earn, you can run but you can't hide from the state's new taxes.

The only way to avoid the increases approved by the legislature last week may be to flee the state before May 1.

Or you could be a non-smoker with less than $100,000 a year in taxable income, who never eats junk food or take-out meals from the grocery.

You also would have to avoid driving (gas tax), newspapers (sales tax) and live in a local jurisdiction that does not plan to raise the piggy-back tax on the state income tax. (Hello, Somerset!)

A new car might bring you credit under the gas guzzler-sipper plan, but you'd still pay an additional 5 cents for every gallon pumped into that car, no matter how fuel efficient.

Drive 12,000 miles with a car that gets 27 miles per gallon and that's $22 more per year.

Own your own corporation? The good news is the corporate tax remains at 7 percent. The bad news -- increases in corporate filing fees.

And the gas tax still has to be calculated into corporate costs, unless your company vehicles use diesel fuel, which means a reprieve from the tax until Jan. 1. Even then, only half the tax goes on, with the remaining tax phased in July 1, 1993.

But how the taxes add up for an average taxpayer will depend a lot on his or her lifestyle, as well as eating and driving habits. Consider these two prototypes.

Cecil Calvert is a single suburbanite with political aspirations, especially after this session of the General Assembly.

He senses his district is ripe for a tax revolt, especially if his county increases its local rate from 50 percent to 60 percent of the state income tax.

But there's no guarantee the county will use the extra income tax to lower his property taxes.

And even if he lives in his Delaware beach house most of the year, there's no longer an exemption for part-time Maryland residents.

Mr. Calvert will pay still more in taxes, because he has a taxable income of $150,000. Every dollar above $100,000 is taxed at 6 percent.

But this also increases the deduction on his federal income tax, kicking almost one third of the state income tax increase back to him.

He doesn't smoke, but he spends $10 a week on pork rinds, so add $26 a year in sales taxes. And when he works late at his company, International Widget, he likes to treat himself to take-out chicken tetrazzini or beef stroganoff from the grocery's gourmet deli. More sales taxes.

He drives a Toyota Camry, but is thinking of trading it in for a Cadillac Allante because his political ambitions make an American car a necessity. That would cost Mr. Calvert no more than 1 percent of the car's sale price because of a new "guzzler" tax on cars that get less than 20 miles per gallon.

An information addict, Mr. Calvert gets three newspapers on his doorstep and buys two more from newsstands. His home phone has every "custom service" -- call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding. He has a car phone and a beeper. All will be taxed, either through closing loopholes in the sales tax code or adding new items. And if Mr. Calvert gets lonely some night, and decides to dial 1-900-TAX-MORE for a little conversation, that's yet another sales tax on this single suburbanite.

In contrast, there are Charles and Henrietta King, a Baltimore couple with two kids and a mortgaged rowhouse.

Mr. King has been laid off from International Widget. Mrs. King is a nurse at a city hospital, so they don't have to worry about the 6 percent tax on couples with income above $150,000. But Mr. King has a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit -- $146 extra in taxes every year.

Their sons eat potato chips and pretzels by the pound, adding a nickel for every dollar spent on snack food. And when Mrs. King works the overnight shift, she eats in the hospital cafeteria -- another new sales tax.

The Kings have an old Nissan Sentra, which will cost $54 to register under the new biennial registration system. Then the state will add another $16 to underwrite the MedEvac program.

Money is tight and the Kings don't go out much. But they do like boxing and they never miss a fight on pay-per-view -- one more sales tax. However, there is no new tax on the beer they drink as they watch.

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