Federal Tax Returns: Latest Rankings by County, State and More

For many years, the county with the highest adjusted gross income per federal tax return payer was found in glossy locations such as Teton County, Wyoming, Fairfield County, Connecticut and New York Country, N.Y. But for the latest available tax year - returns filed during 2015 -- the top ranking county in the nation according to this count has moved south, to McMullen County, Texas, where its best known feature is Boot Hill Cemetery in Tilden.

Though ranked among smallest of the nation's 3,000 plus counties in terms of total population, when examined by another factor --- the average adjusted gross income of the taxpayers in this very sparsely populated county easily tops the better known spots mentioned above as well as Falls Church City, Virginia, Marin County (Point Reyes Station), California and Pitkin County (Aspen, Colorado).

(Boot Hill Cemetery, established about 1858, gained its name because many of the interred reportedly were buried with "their boots on.")

TRAC has updated its interactive Taxpayer Returns application with the latest data available from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This unique tool makes it easy to browse through TRAC's extensive store of information on the constantly shifting types of income going back to 1991 that flow to taxpayers in the fifty states and every one of the more than 3,000 counties.

Average wages and salaries continue to grow more slowly that total income from all sources. While average reported wages and salaries grew by 3.5 percent on returns filed in 2015 as compared with those filed the previous year, the average adjusted grow income (AGI) grew by 6.3 percent. Overtime, the proportion of reported income from wages and salaries has slipped. For returns filed during 2015 wages and salaries made up only 69 percent of reported AGI. For 2014 it was 71 percent. Ten years ago it was 73 percent, while twenty years ago wages and salaries made up 77 percent.

Fewer than two exemptions (1.95) are now being claimed on average on a return - down from over two (2.16) a decade ago.

Top and Bottom Counties

Here are some results you can get by using the "Top and Bottom 50 Only" option to rank counties according to the latest tax data available for filing year 2015:

  • Exemptions: When it comes to exemptions claimed per taxpayer, Adams County (Othello) in Washington is number one in the country, with 2.68. At the other end is New York County (Manhattan) in New York with only 1.54 exemptions.
  • Wages and Salaries: New York County (Manhattan) in New York reported the highest average wages and salaries of $106,778. At the other end is Catron County (Glenwood) in New Mexico with average wages and salaries of only $15,530.
  • Dividend Income: Teton County (Moose) in Wyoming reported the highest average dividend income with $36,617. At the bottom of the rankings was Sioux County (Fort Yates) in North Dakota, with an average of only eleven dollars.
  • Adjusted Gross Income: When all income sources are combined, as mentioned above, McMullen County in Texas topped the list with an average of $303,717 in adjusted gross income reported, while Clay County (Fort Gaines) in Georgia came in last, reporting an average of only $26,649 in adjusted gross income on returns filed there.

State Rankings

In addition to county listings, states can also be ranked by the same measures. Here are a few state results:

  • The highest average number of exemptions were claimed on returns filed in Utah, Idaho and Texas, in that order. The District of Columbia, Vermont and Rhode Island took the lowest three spots. The average exemptions claimed were one and a half times higher in Utah than in the District of Columbia.
  • The top three states in terms of average wages and salaries were Connecticut, the District of Columbia and New Jersey, respectively. The lowest figures were reported for Mississippi, New Mexico, and Montana. Average wages and salaries reported in Connecticut were 1.8 times higher than those in Mississippi.
  • The highest dividend income was reported in Connecticut, Wyoming, and Arkansas, in that order. At the other end, the lowest dividend income was reported in Mississippi, West Virginia and Alabama. Average dividends reported in Connecticut were 5.5 times higher than the average for Mississippi.

County Data from A to Z

Besides identifying the counties in the fifty top and bottom spots, TRAC's Taxpayer Returns application allows you to look up any one of the 3,000 plus counties and see where it ranks - within the same state or across the nation as a whole. Then you can sort counties by rank, or look at an alphabetical list of all counties, to quickly find how they stacked up. For example, looking at adjusted gross income for all 3,135 counties, from A to Z:

  • Abbeville County (Abbeville) in South Carolina ranked 26th in the state and 2,641 nationally in terms of adjusted gross income, while Acadia Parish (Crowley) in Louisiana ranked 30th in the state and 1,177 in the country.
  • Ziebach County (Dupree) in South Dakota ranked 60th in the state and 2,818 overall for adjusted gross income, while Zavala County (Batesville) in Texas ranked 2,640 nationally and 236th in the state.