Overview of Kentucky Taxes
Kentucky has a progressive income tax with rates that are slightly higher than the national average. Both sales and property taxes are below the national average.
Number of Personal Exemptions
|Tax Type||Marginal |
|Total Income Taxes|
|Income After Taxes|
Total Estimated Tax Burden $
Percent of income to taxes = %
Total Estimated Tax Burden$
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Kentucky state tax quick facts
The Bluegrass State has a fairly typical tax system. It consists of a progressive income tax with rates ranging from 2% to 6%, a statewide sales tax of 6% and property taxes that average $987 annually. Both the sales tax and the property taxes are below the national averages, while the state income tax has slightly higher-than-average rates.
There are, however, two unique aspects of Kentucky’s tax system. The first is local income tax rates, which are collected by both counties and cities, and range from 0.015% up to 3.55% of resident incomes. The second is its inheritance tax. Kentucky is one of just six states to impose a tax on inheritances. Below we will take an in-depth look at each of these taxes, as well as any rules or exceptions that could save you money.
Kentucky Income Tax
The income tax in Kentucky is structured in a similar fashion to the federal income tax. Rates range from 2% to 6%, increasing as income increases. The table below shows the income tax brackets for taxpayers in Kentucky.
Income Tax Brackets
|Kentucky Taxable Income||Rate|
|$0 - $3,000||2.00%|
|$3,000 - $4,000||3.00%|
|$4,000 - $5,000||4.00%|
|$5,000 - $8,000||5.00%|
|$8,000 - $75,000||5.80%|
To calculate taxes owed, taxpayers in Kentucky must make certain additions and subtractions to their federal adjusted gross income (AGI). The result is Kentucky taxable income, to which the above rates are applied.
Many types of retirement income that are taxable at the federal level are not taxable in Kentucky. Social security benefits are exempt, as is retirement income from any Kentucky governmental retirement systems. Pension and annuity income up to $41,100 is also exempt. Interest from federal obligations (treasury notes, etc.) is exempt, while interest income from the municipal bonds of other states is taxable. Active duty military pay is also exempt from state taxes in Kentucky.
Kentucky Tax Credits
There are a number of additional credits available to families and parents in Kentucky. These include the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which is equal to 20% of the federal credit by the same name; the Family Size Tax Credit, available to low-income families; and the Education Tuition Tax Credit.
Kentucky Occupational Taxes
In addition to the state income tax, many counties and cities in Kentucky levy what are called “occupational taxes.” In general, these taxes apply to wages, not to Kentucky taxable income. That means there are no deductions, exemptions or credits applicable to these taxes.
The table below shows the occupational tax rate for every county and the largest cities in Kentucky that have one. For cities that are within a county with its own tax, both taxes must be paid and the table reflects total rates.
KY Local Income Tax Rates
|County||County Income Tax Rate|
|City||City Rate||County Rate||Total Local Income Tax|
Kentucky Sales Tax
Thanks to Kentucky’s system of local occupational taxes, there are no local sales tax rates throughout the state. That means that the state’s sales tax rate of 6% is the same regardless of where you are. Most goods and some services are subject to that rate. The services for which sales tax is required are admissions (to movies, themes parks, etc.), accommodations lasting less than 30 days, communications services, prepaid calling services and sewage and natural gas utilities.
Among the commonly purchased products that are exempt from Kentucky sales tax are most food items (excluding candy, soft drinks and prepared food), prescription drugs and prosthetic devices. Clothing, vehicles and other large purchases are all subject to the full sales tax rate.
Kentucky Property Tax
Property taxes in Kentucky are some of the lowest in the country. On average, homeowners pay just 0.82% effective property tax rates (annual taxes as a percentage of home value). That’s the 18th lowest rate in the country. Depending on where you live, however, that rate could be significantly higher or lower. County rates range between 1.15% (in Campbell County) and 0.49% (in Martin County).
Kentucky Inheritance Tax
Inheritances in Kentucky are taxed based on the recipient’s relationship to the deceased, as well as the value of the property being bequeathed. There are three classes of recipients. Class A includes direct family like spouse, parent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister. Recipients of an inheritance who are in this class are totally exempt from inheritance tax.
Class B recipients are indirect family like nieces, nephews, daughters- and sons-in-law, aunts, uncles and great-grandchildren. This class receives a $1,000 exemption but is otherwise subject to the tax, with rates beginning at 4% for amounts greater than that $1,000 exemption and increasing to a top rate of 16% for the amount of the inheritance above $200,000.
Class C recipients include anyone not in Class A or B. They receive an exemption of $500. After that, rates begin at 6% and increase to a top rate of 16% for the amount of the inheritance over $60,000.
Kentucky Alcohol Tax
Despite its rich history as a producer of the nation’s best bourbon, Kentucky’s alcoholic beverage taxes are among the highest in the nation. Liquor faces an excise tax rate of $1.92 per gallon and all types of alcohol face wholesale tax rates of 11%. When including all excise and sales taxes, beer in Kentucky is taxed at a rate of 87 cents per gallon—a little over 8 cents for each 12 ounce beer. That’s 6th highest in the country.
Kentucky Cigarette Tax
The Kentucky cigarette tax is equal to 60 cents per pack of 20. That’s 11th lowest in the U.S.
Kentucky Capital Gains Tax
Capital gains are taxed as regular income in Kentucky. That means they are subject to the full income tax rates of 2% - 6%, depending on your total taxable income.
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Places with the Lowest Tax Burden
Are you curious how your tax burden stacks up against others in your state? SmartAsset’s interactive map highlights the counties with the lowest tax burden. Scroll over any county in the state to learn about taxes in that specific area.
Where you live can have a big impact on both which types of taxes you have to pay each year and how much money you spend on them. SmartAsset calculated the amount of money a specific person would pay in income, sales, property and fuel taxes in each county in the country and ranked the lowest to highest tax burden.
To better compare income tax burdens across counties, we used the national median household income. We then applied relevant deductions and exemptions before calculating federal, state and local income taxes.
In order to determine sales tax burden we estimated that 35% of take-home (after-tax) pay is spent on taxable goods. We multiplied the average sales tax rate for a county by the household income less income tax. This product is then multiplied by 35% to estimate the sales tax paid.
For property taxes, we compared the median property taxes paid in each county.
For fuel taxes, we first distributed statewide vehicle miles traveled down to the county level using the number of vehicles in each county. We then calculated the total number of licensed drivers within each county. The countywide miles were then distributed amongst the licensed drivers in the county, which gave us the miles driven per licensed driver. Using the nationwide average fuel economy, we calculated the average gallons of gas used per driver in each county and multiplied that by the fuel tax.
We then added the dollar amount for income, sales, property and fuel taxes to rank the counties to calculate a total tax burden.
Sources: US Census Bureau 2015 American Community Survey, Government Sources, Avalara, American Petroleum Institute, GasBuddy, UMTRI, Federal Highway Administration, SmartAsset