Keeping Perspective

As the Oklahoma Legislature winds down the 2009 session, there is still talk of tax relief–a lower top income tax rate, exemptions for oil and gas drilling, and limits on property tax growth–in spite of a budget shortfall of $600 million or more. With all the reductions of  the last few years and with some of our leaders calling for further tax cuts yet, it is easy to forget that Oklahoma already is a very low tax state.

OK Policy will soon release the Online Guide to Oklahoma Budget and Taxes. It offers a comprehensive look at government spending, revenues, budget processes, and important policy issues Oklahoma faces in  the years ahead. The Guide uses plain English, clear graphs, and an easy navigating system so readers can find out what they need in a hurry, or examine a subject in greater depth.

Here’s an excerpt from the Guide’s section on how Oklahoma’s taxes compare to the rest of the country:

How Oklahoma Taxes Compare

Oklahomans pay $854 per person less in taxes than the national average. By most measures, Oklahoma’s taxes are lower than the American average. For example, Oklahoma state and local taxes were $3,147 per person in 2006, compared to the national average of $4,001. Oklahoma ranks 42nd among states in taxes per person according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Our tax level of $10.10 per $100 of income is well below the national average of $11.24 and our rank has fallen from 29th in the 1980s. Among Oklahoma’s seven neighboring states, Arkansas (44th) and Missouri (43rd) ranked lower than Oklahoma (42nd) in total state and local taxes per person. Kansas (22nd) ranked highest and the other four states were higher than Oklahoma.


Most Oklahoma Taxes Are Lower Than Other States. This figure shows that Oklahoma collects less per person than the national average, specifically:

• Individual income taxes are $129 per person less than the national average and corporate income    taxes are $92 per person less than average.
• Even though we rely more on the sales tax than many states, Oklahoma sales taxes are $54 per person less than the national average.
• Property taxes are dramatically lower in Oklahoma than elsewhere. Our average tax collected of $504 per person is less than half the national average of $1,202.
View OK Policy’s fact sheet on Oklahoma property taxes.
• Selective sales taxes, which apply to purchase of specific items like vehicles and cigarettes, are $143 per person lower than the national average.
• “Other taxes” is the only category in which Oklahoma taxes are above average on a per-person basis (by $261). This is due to the high revenue from severance or gross production taxes on oil and gas. These taxes ultimately are paid by those who use the petroleum products, mainly non-Oklahomans.


This graph shows how each of Oklahoma’s major taxes ranks among the 50 states. In most taxes, we rank in the middle or bottom of the states.

The Guide’s revenue section includes sections on our mix of taxes, how taxes compare to other states, how each of the major taxes works, and descriptions and analysis of user charges, federal funds, and other revenues. It promises to be the most comprehensive look at Oklahoma state and local revenues you can find in a single place.

If you’d like to know more about Oklahoma’s tax mix, history, and comparisons, have a look at 10 Things You Should Know About Oklahoma’s Budget & Tax System.


Paul Shinn

Paul Shinn served as Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst with OK Policy from May 2019 until December 2021. Before joining OK Policy, Shinn held budget and finance positions for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the Department of Human Services, the cities of Oklahoma City and Del City and several local governments in his native Oregon. He also taught political science and public administration at the University of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma, and California State University Stanislaus. While with the Government Finance Officers Association, Paul worked on consulting and research projects for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and several state agencies and local governments. He also served as policy analyst for CAP Tulsa. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from University of Oklahoma and degrees from the University of Oregon and the University of Maryland College Park. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife Carmelita.

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