New York’s mayoral candidates have paid surprisingly little attention to one issue that really sets the Big Apple apart: an extraordinarily heavy tax burden.

No other big city in the country imposes such a broad array of taxes at such high levels, piling its own levies on top of those collected by Albany. For example, corporations pay a combined rate of 17.5 percent on net income allocated to New York City, roughly double the average in most of the country. At the same time, the city’s property tax is engineered to fall most heavily on commercial property and apartment buildings — contributing to sky-high rents in both categories.

While businesses feel the brunt, individuals aren’t spared. That’s because New York residents also are taxed on their personal income, at a combined state-city rate that reaches 12.7 percent — second highest in the country.

For a hypothetical family of four with income of $25,000, New York’s burden of major state and city taxes comes to $208 more than the average for all big cities, according to one national survey. The tax gap between New York and other big cities gets wider with income. At the $150,000 level, New York’s combined burden on a family of four is $18,811, a whopping $5,980 above average.

So, what will the next mayor do? The leading Democratic hopefuls endorse targeted tax breaks for small businesses, start-ups or outer-borough firms — but while Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson oppose any tax hike, Bill de Blasio, John Liu and Anthony Weiner want to raise taxes on the wealthy. De Blasio says he’d spend the revenue on pre-K programs, while Liu and Weiner say they’d use it to finance middle-class tax cuts.

On the Republican side, John Catsimatidis has endorsed tax reduction in general while Joe Lhota has called for a phaseout of the city’s tax on unincorporated businesses and a thorough review of the property tax.

In the wake of the Great Recession, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been trying to move away from the city’s excessive dependence on Wall Street to a more diverse economy with a larger high-tech sector. But this strategy won’t be successful if Bloomberg’s successor assumes the city can keep taxing with impunity.

E.J. McMahon is senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute’s Empire Center for Public Policy.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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