Tax law is by far one of the most complex facets of US law. In fact, the US tax code runs over 2,000 pages in length. To make matters more complicated, laws and regulations are constantly changing year over year and state tax laws vary greatly from state to state. Failing to properly understand tax can lead to an audit, which can result in very undesirable consequences. Such a complex system is bound to spur on a plethora of different Google searches each and every day.
Tax law is so large and far reaching that there are many different topics and questions users could search for. Do tax searches vary by state, and if so, what tax topics does each state search more than any other? The tax attorneys at Paladini Law were interested in answering this question. We compiled over 100 different search terms and topics and ran them through Google Trends. The results can be found below.
Alabama – How to file a tax extension
In 2018, Alabama signed a Tax Amnesty Act into law, providing tax payers with delinquent filings and payment obligations a one-time chance to fulfill these duties without penalty. While only 145 applications were approved for amnesty, it seems that the interest in filing for legal tax extensions has risen this year as a result.
Alabama is one of a few states that has automatic tax extensions—meaning that if you do not file your tax return by the April 15th deadline, your tax extension does not need to be filed separately in order to be assigned a new October due date. However, any taxes owed are still due in April.
Alaska – Tax dividend
The entire state of Alaska essentially awards each citizen nearly $2000 per year simply for being a permanent resident of the state through the Permanent Fund Dividend. These dividends are taxable by the federal government, and since the amount changes annually, it is no surprise why Alaskans are searching for tax dividends as they begin to file their taxes.
Arizona – How long to keep tax records
Arizona residents seem to have been searching for how long to keep their tax records this year. While the reasons for this require further research, in general, tax records should be kept for at least three years after filing in case of an audit. However, the IRS can opt to look back even further depending on certain conditions.
Arkansas – Tax shelter
A tax shelter is a way in which taxpayers can minimize or decrease their taxable income and, therefore, their tax liabilities. These can tax the form of tax deductions (such as charitable contributions) as well as investment and retirement accounts. Arkansas has some of the highest sales taxes across the country, which may contribute to taxpayers looking for ways to cut back on tax-related expenses in other ways.
California – Gas guzzler tax
With the rising interest in preserving our climate, it makes sense why Californians are looking towards the gas guzzler tax. Whether they are driving a fuel-inefficient car themselves or are curious to know more about their neighbors’ taxes, Californians who drive a car with an EPA-estimated combined fuel-economy rating of less than 12.5 mpg will see a substantial increase to their federal taxes this year.
Colorado – Marijuana tax
It seems many Colorado residents are interested to see how marijuana taxes will affect their tax returns this year. Since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2014, Colorado has generated nearly a billion dollars in revenue based on marijuana taxes alone. The recreational marijuana tax increased to 15 percent in 2017, meaning that consumers will pay more at check-out when local taxes are applied as well.
Connecticut – States with no income tax
Connecticut has consistently ranked as a state with some of the heaviest tax burdens on residents across the country. It comes as no surprise, then, that residents seeking tax relief might be looking to move elsewhere—preferably to a state without an income tax.
(For reference—the seven states without an income tax are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming).
Delaware – IRS scams
Residents of Delaware must be genuinely concerned about IRS scams this year considering how many inquiries have been made about them. Reports of scammers and hackers have appeared in multiple news headlines annually as far back as 2009.
The IRS has outlined guidelines about how they do—and do not—handle tax-based correspondences in an effort to reduce the number of people who are unfairly taken advantage of by scammers each year.
Washington D.C. – State income tax rates
Those who live in Washington, DC appear to have an increased interest in the state income tax rates of surrounding states. Washington, DC has the highest income tax rate between surrounding states Maryland and Virginia by a considerable margin, with these results perhaps indicating a desire to move to a state nearby with a lower income tax rate.
Florida – How to avoid paying taxes
Although Florida has no state income tax, it does have some of the highest property tax rates in the country. It is not yet clear if Floridians are looking for a way out of paying high property taxes or taxes in general. Whatever the reason may be, we advise paying your taxes on time—and not trying to avoid them.
Georgia – How many kids can you claim on your taxes?
The average family size in Georgia is approximately 3.32 individuals per household, meaning that many filing taxes this year may have at least one child dependent listed on their return. It makes sense, then, that many Georgians are looking to the internet for answers about how many children they can claim in order to qualify for Earned Income Credit.
Hawaii – Form 1099
As an island state, the Form 1099-MISC may be more relevant than in other landlocked states. This form is used to file any amount (over $600) spent on cash payments for fish or for fishing boat proceeds. With Hawaiians consuming nearly twice as much fish as other Americans, the Form 1099 becomes much more relevant to keep paying fishermen for their services.
Idaho – How much do you have to make to file taxes?
Filing taxes is based on age, income level and filing status. Idaho residents seem to be curious about income levels and how that affects their obligation to file taxes this year. A recent study has showed that Idaho’s tax burden on citizens is amongst the lowest in the country, perhaps sparking this curiosity (or even some confusion) over what and when they should file.
Illinois – Amusement tax
In Chicago in particular, residents are seemingly taxed on everything from plastic bag usage to entertainment and amusement. Recently proposed tax hikes for entertainment and amusement has sparked equal amounts of curiosity and outrage regarding the state of Illinois’ continued attempts to rehabilitate its financial health.
Indiana – Why do I owe taxes?
While many Americans opt to have the IRS automatically withhold part of their pay in order to avoid paying taxes back to the IRS during tax season, it seems that many Indiana residents are curious as to why they owe taxes back even if the IRS has been withholding their income over the last year.
Iowa – What is an amended tax return
Making changes to your tax return is an inevitable reality for many Iowans it seems. A surge in inquiries related to amended tax returns seems to indicate that some confusion may have occurred as a result of Iowa’s extensive tax reform, which seeks to simplify and streamline Iowa’s currently complex tax laws.
Kansas – Hot air balloon tax
One of Kansas’ strangest laws regards hot air balloons and how they are taxed. Simply put, tethered hot air balloons (which provide entertainment but don’t actually go anywhere) are taxable, while untethered balloons (ones which travel) are not.
We assume that not many Kansas residents actually own hot air balloons that they regularly use, so this result is probably more of a curiosity than a genuine question.
Kentucky – What can I claim on taxes
With Kentucky recently having adopted a flat income tax rate for all residents, those who were traditionally in a lower bracket might be searching for ways to save money if their income tax rate saw an increase. Kentucky, like other states, offers a number of itemized deductions that can ultimately save money for those who qualify.
Louisiana – When does tax season start?
In the aftermath of the partial government shutdown, many Louisiana residents appeared to want to know if the start date of tax season (and subsequent rollouts of tax returns) would be affected by the shutdown. Fortunately, the shutdown has not severely impacted tax season yet—which must come as a relief to those in Louisiana.
Maine – Blueberry tax
Did you know that Maine produces 99 percent of wild blueberries in the US? Anyone who grows, purchases, sells, handles or processes blueberry in the state will be taxed accordingly. While the tax seems strange to those not from the state, the tax is meant to fund research efforts that keep Maine’s blueberry market competitive among other states and provinces in nearby Canada.
Maryland – Is social security taxed?
Maryland is not traditionally known to be the most tax-friendly state for retirees. In fact, while Maryland exempts some types of retirement income (such as social security) from state income taxes, it fully taxes others (such as income from an IRA or 401(k)). Maryland is also a state that has both an estate and an inheritance tax. So for new retirees looking to relocate, Maryland may not be the best option for you.
Massachusetts – Excise tax
Massachusetts residents who own a car must pay an excise instead of a personal property tax for any vehicle in their possession. This tax, at $25 per $1000 of value assessed, is unique in that the only factor which affects it is the amount of time that has passed since a car model was released. For example, a person who owns a year-old car will pay considerably more in excise taxes than a person driving a 10-year old car.
Michigan – Gold medal tax
All that glitters is gold—and winning an Olympic gold medal gives an athlete quite a bit of pocket change as a result. However, the shining gold medal and prize money come with a tax (colloquially known as the “victory tax”) since the medal and the associated prize money are considered a form of income. Additional research will be necessary to determine why Michigan residents are consistently searching about the gold medal tax.
Minnesota – Powerball tax
For every lottery prize over $5000, nearly a third is deducted for federal and state withholding. Perhaps Michigan has seen some big lottery winners in the past year, and others are curious to know how much they are being taxed? Or maybe they are wondering where the Powerball money is coming from?
Mississippi – Where is my tax refund?
Perhaps influenced by this year’s earlier government shutdown, Mississippi residents seem eager to know when they will get their tax refunds this year and how the shutdown might impact it. Fortunately, it seems like the IRS is in good shape despite the shutdown and has been allocating tax refunds in a timely manner.
Missouri – Energy efficient tax credit
Missouri’s commitment to better methods of energy efficiency has sparked curiosity among residents seeking to upgrade to more energy-efficient utilities and receive tax credits for such. With personal rebates available toward upgrades and personal income tax deductions available for in-home energy audits, it’s probably for the best that Missouri is thinking green this tax season.
Montana – Self-employment tax
A 2017 study found that approximately 86,000 self-employed or family-owned businesses exist in the state of Montana. In fact, approximately 97 percent of businesses in Montana are classified as a small business. This statistic alone justifies why many Montana residents are searching for self-employment and small business-related taxes this year.
Nebraska – Drug tax stamps
Nebraska has passed strict laws in an effort to combat illegal drug trade and transportation through the Cornhusker state. One such law allows for dealers who have been caught by law enforcement to pay a tax on marijuana in their possession exceeding six ounces instead of being charged with a Class IV felony. While there have not been many drug stamps issued in recent years, the law still stands as an alternative to being charged with a felony for possession of an illegal substance.
Nevada – Free card deck with tax return
Las Vegas is known for many things—one of which is gambling. In fact, when you file a tax return in the state of Nevada, you are given a free deck of cards as an incentive to keep filing your taxes. Winning big comes in many forms in Nevada, and fueling the gambling industry of the state is perhaps the biggest victory of them all.
New Hampshire – Does Puerto Rico pay taxes?
We were unsure what to think when residents from New Hampshire were researching the tax status on residents of Puerto Rico. But considering that Puerto Rico and New Hampshire offer similar tax benefits to retirees, relocating to Puerto Rico to escape the cold winters of the Northeast may seem like a viable option for those looking to avoid income taxes (and reap other benefits as well, such as no tax on gambling winnings).
New Jersey – Tax amnesty
New Jersey rolled out a tax amnesty program in late 2018 that allowed residents with delinquent taxes or filings to finally file their taxes without fear of penalty. It appears that residents continued to search about tax amnesty going into the New Year—despite the January 15th deadline—in an effort to resolve their tax status. More research will be necessary to determine how many residents are actually behind on their taxes.
New Mexico – When is the last day to do taxes?
While the IRS and other financial agencies typically urge taxpayers to file early, it appears that New Mexico residents have other things in mind. While the state follows IRS guidelines on tax extensions, many seem to be seeking out knowledge on how extensions work—and when they need to file taxes if they are not filing for an extension.
New York – Bitcoin taxes
In early 2018, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (NYDTF) classified bitcoin and other types of “convertible digital currency” as “intangible property,” meaning that cryptocurrency-related transactions would not be subject to sales tax in the state. However, bitcoins are still subject to taxation if they are sold for a profit.
North Carolina – Can you pay taxes with a credit card?
Can you pay your taxes with a credit card instead of real money? In North Carolina, residents have been searching for ways to pay their taxes without actually paying them all at once. While the IRS is forbidden from directly accepting credit cards, the use of third-party services allow for users to charge taxes directly to their credit card alongside a convenience fee.
North Dakota – Pet tax
Livestock and poultry (and other fur-bearing animals) feed is not subject to sales tax under North Dakota law. Some cities (such as Grand Forks) require pet owners to have licensure for their cats and dogs, but it is unclear if they are further taxed for pet ownership beyond the fees that they must pay in order to obtain a license.
Ohio – When does the IRS deposit refunds
Similar to Mississippi, Ohio residents are very curious to know when they will be receiving their tax refunds this year. The IRS offers estimates on the date that taxpayers will receive their refund after filing, but even this estimate can vary considerably.
Oklahoma – How to file taxes for free
Oklahoma residents have been eager to know how to file their taxes for free using any method available to them. The IRS offers a number of options for taxpayers to e-file their taxes for free (or at a low cost), but does this extend to paper taxes as well? More research will be needed to determine if there are free tax filing options that extend to paper taxes.
Oregon – States with no sales tax
As a state with no sales tax itself, it came as a surprise to see many Oregon residents searching for other states with a similar sales tax status. Perhaps those currently living in Oregon are looking for a change in scenery?
(Other states without sales tax include Delaware, Montana and New Hampshire. Alaska does not impose a sales tax, but may impose a retail-level tax instead).
Pennsylvania – Can you claim yourself as a dependent
In an effort to get the most out of their tax refunds this year, it appears that many in Pennsylvania are looking to claim themselves as dependents on their taxes. While you cannot claim yourself as a dependent for tax-filing purposes, you may be eligible to claim a personal exemption for yourself on your return.
Rhode Island – Car tax
Like Massachusetts, Rhode Island residents see an annual excise tax on their vehicles taken out of pocket each year. Unlike Massachusetts, however, Rhode Island’s car tax can vary considerably based on where a taxpayer is residing at the time of filing. This amount can vary anywhere between approximately $10 per $1000 assessed value to $60 per $1000 assessed value.
South Carolina – Tax service near me
South Carolina taxpayers are eager to file their taxes this year, and seeking out the nearest tax service appears to be the number one priority for those not opting to e-file. There are a number of tax services conveniently located across the state for those looking to file.
South Dakota – First-time homebuyer tax credit
The IRS offers a first-time homebuyer credit to those who have purchased a home as a primary residence between 2008 and 2010. South Dakota offers a number of similar programs to first-time homebuyers without the need of a qualifying home. Perhaps residents are looking to make a purchase in the future?
Tennessee – What does tax free weekend include?
Tennessee offers an annual tax-free weekend near the end of July for eligible purchases on items including clothing, school supplies and computers. It offers businesses a chance to incentivize investment options while driving a profit with consumer sales. Considering Tennessee has a 7 percent sales tax rate, this weekend offers the opportunity for buyers to save and businesses to continue growing.
Texas – Dirt tax
Owners of adobe homes in certain Texas cities (such as Marfa) were shocked to see an increase on property taxes of adobe dwellings this past year. This comes as a shock and concern to owners of adobe homes, who may not be able to afford keeping up with the higher taxes placed on their homes simply due to the material that their homes are made out of.
Utah – American opportunity tax credit
Residents of Utah appear to be pursuing higher education—and looking for opportunities to make it more affordable. The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is a yearly maximum credit of $2,500 to fund the pursuit of higher education for a student’s first four years at an accredited university. With growing support for affordable education across the country, it seems like Utah is ready to lead the way in taking matters into its own hands.
Vermont – Carbon tax
Capitalizing on the fact that Vermont’s electricity primarily comes from renewable sources, the ESSEX Plan proposed last year seeks to make fossil fuels more expensive while reducing the cost of electricity across the state. Leading the way with progressive climate-friendly reforms, Vermont residents are curious to see the status of pending legislation regarding fuel efficiency and reducing fossil fuel use.
Virginia – Jock tax
The “jock tax” is the colloquially named income tax levied against visitors to a city or state who earn money in that jurisdiction. Typically, this applies to professional athletes who travel to and from various cities during their seasons and earn profit while playing. While Virginia does not have a professional major-league team within its borders, perhaps residents are interested in this possibility in the future.
Washington – Nanny tax
While Washington does not have a state income tax, the federal state income taxes still apply. Washington also requires that employers pay employment security taxes on nannies who make more than $1000 per quarter. In short, hiring a nanny might not be as simple as it appears for residents of Washington state.
West Virginia – Tax credit refund
There are two types of tax credits that exist: refundable and non-refundable. For those seeking a tax refund (which, based on these search results, applies to many in West Virginia), refundable tax credits may be a better option for those who owe taxes but still wish to receive a refund.
Wisconsin – Negative income tax
Those who earn below a certain amount in Wisconsin may be eligible to receive supplemental pay from the government instead of paying taxes. Certain tax credits may push your tax obligations into the negatives, which would theoretically allow for a larger refund payout. More research is necessary to determine how negative income taxes have impacted Wisconsin taxpayers.
Wyoming – How to file taxes
Residents in Wyoming seem to want to know more about their filing options this year, and with the sparse population of the state, perhaps there are not many tax institutions nearby that would allow them to conveniently file paper taxes. Fortunately, the IRS offers e-filing options for all taxpayers to use to file taxes from the comfort of their own homes.