Getting the Most out of Life

No State Income Tax? One Activist Millennial Speaks Out

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Some taxpayers pay no state income tax, while others are used to losing some money out of every paycheck. State income taxes are highest in California, Hawaii, Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa, New Jersey, Vermont, and New York, as a 2015 map from the Tax Foundation shows. A 2014 Tax Foundation report notes that in 2011, residents of New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York suffered the highest state and local tax burdens, measured as a share of income in the nation. In these states, residents lost more than 11.9 percent of their incomes to state and local taxes.

One Millennial says it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Power of a Free Market

“I believe in the power of a free market and the benefits that it can give to individuals,” says Kristoffer Adams, a community activist from Memphis, Tennessee, and the outreach director for City GOP, an organization based out of Washington, D.C. Kristoffer started his career in activism while attending the University of Memphis. “I’ve always been conservative, but I never identified with either party until I made it to college. Then I started paying attention to how things work. It was an epiphany when I realized I’m a Republican. Everything about me is conservative, especially when it comes to money.”

Kristoffer is also the founder of political website My Just+Us, where he and a team of writers discuss issues important to Millennials.

“We seek to give Millennials a way to be heard,” he says. One of the issues Kristoffer writes about is the importance of no state income tax for individuals and small business owners. “I believe in protecting small businesses; that’s what this country was built on. So as a small business owner, I want to see my business succeed, and part of that is minimizing taxes. Where’s your incentive to start a business if you’re going to be overtaxed? If I want to have the chance to live the American Dream, I need to have a chance for my business to grow.”

Want Lower Taxes? Vote for Them

After working in Seattle for a small business in the construction industry, Kristoffer returned to Memphis to start his own company.

“I was born in Memphis, and I came back to support my family and start a business. Growing up, entrepreneurship was always set as an example. Most members of my family have started businesses—some successful, some unsuccessful. I was taught that you should go out there and try with your own two hands.”

“Millennials can get hired or start their own business, but a state income tax bill upfront is a drawback,” he continues. Tennessee makes it easier to pursue entrepreneurship by charging only a minimal income tax on interest and dividends, called the Hall tax. “When I returned from Seattle, I knew I could start a business in a state with a more favorable tax structure,” he says. “It was definitely a benefit.”

The Center for American Progress reports that by 2020, every Millennial will be of voting age. Until then, 4.5 million Millennials will come of age to vote each year—a fact that’s not lost on Kristoffer. “I believe that if we go out and vote, we can make a difference,” he says. “Some Millennials are not interested in voting because they don’t think it makes a difference. At Just+Us, we talk to Millennials to teach them how it makes a difference.”

Actively voting could mean lowering—or even eliminating—income taxes. “You have to find the representatives who support tax cuts,” says Kristoffer, “because fewer taxes taken out over time result in a more robust economy.”

“Millennials are going to be the most educated generation in history,” Kristoffer adds. “What we do with that education is another question.”