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Californians’ Views on Taxes

Lunna Lopes April 13, 2016
Pencil With Tax Form On US Dollarbills Background

As Tax Day approaches, how are Californians feeling about their state and local tax system? In our March PPIC Statewide Survey, most Californians see the system as fair. But when asked about their personal state and local tax burden, a majority of residents (56%) said they pay more than they should. A little over one-third of Californians (37%) said they pay the right amount in state and local taxes, while only 4% said they pay less than they should.

Opinions about taxes differ across political and demographic groups. Republicans are more likely than independents, and far more likely than Democrats, to feel they pay more than they should in taxes. Across racial/ethnic groups, blacks are the most likely to feel they pay more than they should in state and local taxes.

This year’s filing deadline reminds residents of their tax burden in the midst of an election year which will likely see Californians vote on state and local tax measures. In our survey, we found that Californians who feel they pay more than they should in taxes have different preferences for the size of government and the extension of Proposition 30 income tax on earnings over $250,000. Indeed, an overwhelming majority of Californians who feel they pay the right amount in taxes say they favor extending the Proposition 30 income tax increase to fund health care and education (80%). But less than half of those who feel they pay more than they should in taxes say the same (49%).

Perceived personal tax burden also appears to affect support for smaller government. Half of Californians who feel they pay more than they should say they prefer a smaller government with fewer services, compared to only a quarter of those who feel they pay the right amount in taxes (51% vs. 25%). Finally, when we asked if most Americans demand more from the government than they are willing to pay for, most Californians—whether they feel they pay too much in taxes or the right amount—said yes.

Though Tax Day reminds us of our personal tax burden every year, this annual reminder may take on added significance when Californians head to the polls this year to have their say on specific tax and spending measures.

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