Mississippi less taxing for retirees

January 5, 2018

Written by Becky Gillette, Mississippi Business Journal

Mississippi has been named the No. 4 most-friendly tax state for retirees by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance in the recently released 2017 Retire Tax Map which looks at the most and least tax-friendly states for retirees across all 50 states.

Sandra Block, senior editor, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, said one reason Mississippi scores so high for being tax friendly for retirees is because the state exempts all qualified retirement income from state taxes.

“For that reason, it compares favorably with states that have no income tax (unless seniors have earned income from a part-time job, which would be taxable),” Block said.

On the local level, property taxes are more favorable in Mississippi than many states. Block said property taxes are below average for the U.S.—the median property tax on the state’s median home value is the 14th lowest in the U.S.

Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director Glenn McCullough, Jr. was not surprised at Mississippi’s high ranking for being tax friendly to retirees.

“Mississippi offers our residents an abundance of affordable, unique and authentic lifestyle offerings,” McCullough said. “Mississippi honors and recognizes the professional and civic contributions of retirees. The state’s generous exclusion of taxable Social Security benefits, retirement income such as pensions, IRAs and 401ks is attractive to retirees seeking to relocate. Mississippi’s high ranking for being tax-friendly to retirees serves as another competitive advantage found in the Magnolia State.”

MDA offers resources to communities in Mississippi which aspire to align themselves with other areas around the country as a retirement destination. MDA sponsors the Hometown Mississippi Retirement program which is designed to retain and attract retirees in the state. McCullough said the program is nearing 25 years of dedicated service in supporting MDA’s mission to strengthen communities.

McCullough said Mississippi’s tax structure serves as a catalyst to bolster services offered by the state. Retirees depend on adequate health care, available housing and retail services—these and many other industries are positively affected by retiree spending.

“Having a reasonable tax structure in place has substantial outcomes in terms of economic fluidness: the financial steadiness of retirees is often uncompromised and non- dependent on local economic factors,” McCullough said. “According to published reports, retirees spend up to 80 percent of their income locally. Data from the Federal Reserve shows retiree households (55+) have the largest net worth nearing $200,000.

McCullough said retirees relocating to Mississippi find their dollars go further in our state than anywhere else in the country. A report from The Tax Foundation states the value of $100 in Mississippi is 15 percent higher than the national average.

Retirees are a valuable asset to a community.

“The purchasing power of retirees in a tax-friendly climate like Mississippi allows for greater opportunities in entrepreneurship, where retirees may consider starting their own business, or acquiring assets such as homes or property,” McCullough said. “Mississippians are known for their charity, and there are a number of volunteer organizations which welcome the assistance of retirees. Many retirees move to the state equipped with professional background and experiences they share with up-and-coming professionals or a craft they have mastered. Leadership and mentorship platforms often benefit retirees as a way to connect with the community.”

Valencia Williamson, executive vice president of the Area Development Partnership (ADP) in Hattiesburg, which is one of the cities involved in the Hometown Retirement City program, agrees the value of retirees to the local area goes beyond economics.

“Retirees get involved,” she said. “At the ADP, we have a plethora of volunteers who’re retired. Retirees want to stay in tune with what’s happening around them; being a member of an organization such as the Chamber of Commerce or the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) keeps them connected, and engaged.”

In Greater Hattiesburg, retirees (55+) make up 24 percent of the population. Williamson said in addition to this being an economic driver because these individuals are likely to bring expendable income into the community, they use fewer services than they pay through taxes.

Williamson said affordable living is one of the most important factors when choosing a retirement destination.

“With a vast array of affordable housing and low property taxes, coupled with tax exemptions on retirement income and superb quality of life, Mississippi is the premier retirement destination in the South,” Williamson said.

Williamson said Certified Retirement Cities focus not just on helping their own city, but also work diligently to promote the region on a national level, with help from local volunteers and organizations who recognize the importance of attracting retirees to live and play in their community.

Another asset that helps attract retirees is having good options for entertainment, lifelong learning and independent living communities.

“Organizations such as the OLLI and independent living communities such as the Claiborne at Hattiesburg have been instrumental in helping us attract new retirees to the area,” Williamson said. “We also partner with VisitHattiesburg, the city’s tourism arm to promote our retiree recruitment efforts locally to individuals who’re passing through. Recently we hosted a travel writer with Ideal Living Magazine who is writing a feature on Greater Hattiesburg and the emphasis we place on attracting retirees to our community. With premier healthcare, education, booming retail and service sectors, arts, festivals, and bountiful recreation, Hattiesburg is the ideal place for retirees to call home.”

Kiplinger’s 10 Most Tax-Friendly States for Retirees are:  1.  Wyoming. 2. Alaska. 3. South Dakota. 4.    Mississippi. 5. Florida. 6. Pennsylvania. 7. Nevada. 8. New Hampshire. 9. Kentucky.  10.  Georgia.  The 10 Least Tax-Friendly States for Retirees are: 1. Minnesota. 2. Connecticut. 3. Kansas. 4. Vermont, 5. Nebraska, 6. New Mexico. 7. Utah. 8. Maryland. 9. Indiana. 10. Wisconsin.

Original article on Mississippi Business Journal’s website.