Think you pay too much in state income taxes? Well, if you made $82,643 and paid $5,000 to Sacramento, then for better or worse, you are the average California taxpayer.
The state’s Franchise Tax Board breaks down personal income tax collections and total tax liability by ZIP Code. For the 2018 filing year, CALmatters took one step further by figuring out, for each of those areas, what the typical tax filer made and paid.
There are two dozen neighborhoods in California where the average tax filer reported income of over $500,000. Moreover, six ZIP Codes with at least 20 tax filings had average incomes topping $1 million.
Spoiler alert: Silicon Valley’s wealthy enclaves of Atherton, Los Altos and Palo Alto top the list of highest contributors to California’s coffers. The Southern California beach towns of Newport Beach and Santa Monica also pulled in big numbers for the state.
In ranking the highest and lowest contributing neighborhoods, CALmatters filtered out ZIP Codes with fewer than 20 tax returns. That’s because some areas have a lot of commerce and very few returns, distorting the overall picture.
Take for example, the top slot, which went to a block in Burbank that is home to The Walt Disney Studios. Ten tax returns were filed for the 91521 ZIP Code with an aggregate income of $77.3 million, which works out to an average income of $7.7 million per filer. The average tax paid? $947,200 per filer, which isn’t entirely representative.
Similarly, just 10 returns came from the ZIP Code encompassing the Pasadena campus of defense contractor Parsons Corp. with a total income of $16.5 million, which works out to $1.65 million per filer. The state of California collected $1.8 million from those 10 filers, which works out to $178,600 apiece.
Coincidentally, the engineering firm went public on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday with an opening IPO price of $27 per share. It might be worth checking back on the 91124 ZIP Code next year to see how the executives did on their capital gains.
But among ZIP Codes that are clearly residential, the 94027 area of Atherton placed first with an average income of $1.7 million. That was followed by 94023 in Los Altos with a $1.64 million average.
On the other end, the 95229 pocket of Vallecito known as Douglas Flat in Calaveras County averaged $91 in taxes paid, the lowest in the state. The sparsely populated town has roots going back to the Gold Rush and is registered as a historic landmark. The other area that came in under $100 is the 93410 area of San Luis Obispo, which is mostly occupied by a private school campus.
Filtering out the more isolated communities, inland and Central Valley communities tended to earn less.
Taxpayers in the unincorporated community of Mecca on the Salton Sea in Riverside County, as well as the community of Huron, which seasonally swells with migrant farmworkers, and parts of Fresno in Fresno County contributed between $112 and $177 on average. There were 98 ZIP Codes where the average tax was less than $500.
Find out how much you and your neighbors paid using the searchable map below.
CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.