Last week I noted that more people left Virginian between 2015 and 2016 than moved into the state — the fourth year in a row the Old Dominion suffered more out-migration than in-migration. From a taxpayer’s perspective, that wouldn’t be so bad if poor people were leaving and rich people were coming in. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The IRS data is based on the change in addresses of people who file income tax returns. The “returns” column in the table above shows the net gain or loss in the number of returns filed; the “exemptions” includes taxpayers plus other family members claimed as exemptions. Tax filers leaving Virginia reported an average income per filer of $73,900, while those who entered the state reported $66,100.
Not only did Virginia lose a net 9,000 taxpayers in 2016, we lost nearly $1.6 billion in income. Assuming an effective income tax rate of about 5%, that represents a loss of about $76 million in tax dollars.
One year’s loss of $1.6 billion in income is hardly a disaster when those who stayed behind reported $250 billion in income. But the steady erosion of the population and tax base over four years does add up, and it will continue to add up if Virginia can’t turn things around. Our collective tax and debt obligations looms a little bit larger when there are 9,000 fewer tax payers each year to shoulder the burden.
Not surprisingly, Virginia lost the most taxpayers (3,900) and the most income ($645 million) to income tax-free Florida. We’re hardly alone in that regard. Wealthy retirees of many other states do the same thing. But how does Virginia explain the net loss of more than 3,000 residents, along with $320 million in income, to high-tax Maryland?
Virginia was a net exporter of income to 40 other states and an importer of income from only 10 states (plus Washington, D.C.). We can console ourselves that our reversal of fortune from 35 years as an importer of people and wealth is temporary, driven by cutbacks in federal funding for the state’s military-industrial complex. But what if there’s more to the story? It would be helpful to take a closer look at which cities, counties and metropolitan areas are winners and losers… which I will do if I can find the time.