The word of the month in Iowa tax discussions is “federal deductibility.” It means you can deduct your federal income tax from your state income at filing time. Only a handful of states let their residents do it.
Iowa is one of only three states that permit taxpayers to deduct the full amount of federal income taxes paid.
Make no mistake: Federal deductibility is a benefit targeted for Iowa’s highest-income families. Some others benefit, but mostly, it is those at higher incomes.
The last, best analysis of this we have shows that the wealthiest 20 percent of Iowa taxpayers receive 80 percent of the tax benefit from federal deductibility (2002 figures). For the other 80 percent of Iowans, the tax cut amounted less than half of 1 percent of their income. Using those 2002 numbers, by the way, the dollar amount of the average tax cut for the top 1 percent of taxpayers was about $13,900 — more than the income of people in the bottom 20 percent.
To understand why wealthier people get the greatest benefits under federal deductibility, consider this: You have to pay federal income tax to get the Iowa deduction. Many Iowans at moderate and low incomes simply do not make enough money to pay income tax to the federal government — but Iowa law still makes them pay income tax. some provisions in the tax-reform bill in the Iowa Legislature make that situation better for low-income families.
Remember these perspectives when someone defends “federal deductibility” as something to help low- or middle-income working families. For most of them, it’s just not so.