Tax-Friendly States That Don't Tax Pensions or Social Security Income

By Rebecca Lake · March 30, 2023 · 12 minute read

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Tax-Friendly States That Don't Tax Pensions or Social Security Income

There are a grand total of seven states that don’t tax retirement income, and that’s because those states don’t tax income at all. This can be important for seniors to know, as holding onto as much retirement income as possible can be important — whether it’s coming from pensions, Social Security, a 401(k), or elsewhere.

Equally important to know: As of 2023, there are 14 states that don’t tax pensions, and 37 states that don’t tax Social Security benefits. Paying less in taxes can lower the strain on a retiree’s budget and help their money last longer. That becomes especially important when and if inflation shrinks purchasing power — as it has in recent years.

How Much Can State Taxes Take Out of Retirement Income?

Each state taxes income, including retirement income, differently. So, there are different states that don’t tax pensions, and then there are states that don’t tax Social Security, etc.

Accordingly, how much of a bite state taxes take out of retirement income can depend on several factors, including the applicable tax rate where you live, and your specific tax brackets.

Taxes can be an important consideration when choosing where to retire, and when to retire.

Understanding State Income Tax

As of 2023, 43 states tax individual income. Of those, 41 states levy taxes on wage and salary income, while seven states do not assess individual income tax. The state of New Hampshire exclusively taxes dividend and interest income, while Washington taxes capital gains for certain high-income individuals.

In some states, the same tax rate applies to all taxable income. Other states use a graduated tax system with individual tax brackets, similar to the way the federal tax system works.

California has the highest marginal tax rate, at 13.30%. Other states with double-digit tax rates include Hawaii (11%), New York (10.90%), New Jersey (10.75%), and Washington, D.C. (10.75%). Aside from the states that have no income tax, the lowest marginal tax rate belongs to North Dakota, which has an income tax rate of 2.90%.

Further, if you were to look at the average retirement savings by state, it may help provide some more insight into where many retirees live — and why.

💡 Learn more about income tax and how it works.

14 States That Don’t Tax Pensions

Altogether, there are 14 states that don’t tax federal or private pension plans. Some of these are states that have no income tax at all; others have provisions in state law that make them states with no pension tax. Here are which states don’t tax pensions:

State

Pension Tax Policy

Alabama Pension income excluded from state income tax
Alaska No state income tax
Florida No state income tax
Hawaii Pension income excluded from state tax
Illinois Pension income excluded from state tax
Mississippi Pension income excluded from state tax
Nevada No state income tax
New Hampshire Only taxes interest and dividend income
Pennsylvania Pension income excluded from state tax
South Dakota No state income tax
Tennessee No state income tax
Texas No state income tax
Washington Only taxes capital gains for high income earners
Wyoming No state income tax

Keep in mind that state or local government employee pension benefits may be treated differently. New York, for example, specifically excludes pension benefits paid by state or local government agencies from state income tax. If you move to another state, however, that state could tax your New York pension benefits.

37 States That Don’t Tax Social Security

Understandably, many people have questions about Social Security, including whether the program will remain solvent in the future. Another big one: How will taxes affect your benefit amount? That’s why it’s important to know which states don’t tax Social Security.

The good news is that 37 states and the District of Columbia do not tax Social Security benefits. So if you’ve chosen to retire, or at least are thinking about choosing a retirement date (which can affect your total Social Security payouts), you don’t need to worry about it. Similar to the states that don’t tax pensions, these states either have no income tax at all, offer exemptions, or have elected to exclude Social Security benefits from taxable income calculations.

State

Social Security Tax Policy

State

Social Security Tax Policy

Alabama Not included in income tax calculations Nevada No state income tax
Alaska No state income tax New Hampshire Only taxes interest and dividend income
Arizona Not included in income tax calculations New Jersey Not included in income tax calculations
Arkansas Not included in income tax calculations New York Not included in income tax calculations
California Not included in income tax calculations North Carolina Not included in income tax calculations
Delaware Not included in income tax calculations North Dakota Exempt from taxation
Florida No state income tax Ohio Not included in income tax calculations
Georgia Not included in income tax calculations Oklahoma Not included in income tax calculations
Hawaii Not included in income tax calculations Oregon Not included in income tax calculations
Idaho Not included in income tax calculations Pennsylvania Not included in income tax calculations
Illinois Not included in income tax calculations South Carolina Not included in income tax calculations
Indiana Not included in income tax calculations South Dakota No state income tax
Iowa Not included in income tax calculations Tennessee No state income tax
Kentucky Not included in income tax calculations Texas No state income tax
Louisiana Not included in income tax calculations Virginia Not included in income tax calculations
Maine Not included in income tax calculations Washington Only taxes capital gains for high-income earners
Maryland Not included in income tax calculations Washington, D.C. Not included in income tax calculations
Massachusetts Not included in income tax calculations Wisconsin Not included in income tax calculations
Mississippi Not included in income tax calculations Wyoming No state income tax

Montana and New Mexico do tax Social Security benefits, but with modifications and exceptions. Montana will also see a change to its tax rate structure in 2024, and Social Security benefits will be taxed the same as they are at the federal tax level.

8 States That Don’t Tax Capital Gains

Federal capital gains tax applies when an investment or asset is sold for more than its original purchase price. The short-term capital gains tax rate applies to investments held for less than one year. Investments held for longer than one year are subject to the long-term capital gains tax.

States can also tax capital gains, though not all of them do. The states that do not tax capital gains are the same states that do not have income tax or have special tax rules on which income is taxable. They include:

•   Alaska

•   Florida

•   Nevada

•   New Hampshire

•   South Dakota

•   Tennessee

•   Texas

•   Wyoming

As far as how much capital gains are taxed at the state level, the tax rate you’ll pay will depend on where you live. Some states offer more favorable tax treatment than others for capital gains.

12 States That Don’t Tax 401(k), TSP, or IRA Income

Yet another potential area where states can generate tax revenue is by taxing retirement accounts such as 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and Thrift Savings Plans (TSPs). In all, there are 12 states that don’t levy taxes on retirement income derived from these sources:

•   Alaska

•   Florida

•   Illinois

•   Mississippi

•   New Hampshire

•   Nevada

•   New Hampshire

•   Pennsylvania

•   South Dakota

•   Tennessee

•   Texas

•   Wyoming

31 States That Don’t Tax Retirement Income From the Military

There are certain states that tax military retirement income, but most do not. In all, 31 states don’t tax military retirement income, including those that don’t have income taxes, and others that have specifically carved out exceptions for military retirement income.

•   Alabama

•   Alaska

•   Arizona

•   Arkansas

•   Connecticut

•   Florida

•   Hawaii

•   Illinois

•   Iowa

•   Kansas

•   Louisiana

•   Maine

•   Massachusetts

•   Michigan

•   Minnesota

•   Mississippi

•   Missouri

•   Nevada

•   New Hampshire

•   New Jersey

•   New York

•   North Dakota

•   Ohio

•   Pennsylvania

•   South Dakota

•   Tennessee

•   Texas

•   Washington

•   West Virginia

•   Wisconsin

•   Wyoming

7 States That Don’t Tax Retirement Income

As covered, there are a lot of different tax levels and tax types — some include different types of retirement income, some just involve plain old income tax itself. As such, it’s not really easy to determine which states don’t tax retirement income whatsoever. But if you were to boil it down to a list that accurately answers the question “which states don’t tax retirement income,” it would mirror the short list of states that don’t tax income at all.

•   Alaska

•   Florida

•   Nevada

•   South Dakota

•   Tennessee

•   Texas

•   Wyoming

In addition, as mentioned above, while New Hampshire and Washington state do tax certain types of income, they don’t really tax most forms of retirement income. So if you live in these states, your Social Security benefits and pension benefits can go further when it comes to covering your retirement expenses.

8 States With Low Retirement Income Taxes

Taking everything into account — taxes on income, pensions, Social Security, military retirement income, and more — there are several states that offer retirees relatively low retirement income taxes. Aside from the seven that don’t tax income at all, these states may be a good option for seniors, as they offer low retirement income taxes in one form or another:

•   Alabama

•   Hawaii

•   Illinois

•   Iowa

•   Mississippi

•   New Hampshire

•   Pennsylvania

•   Washington

Which States Have the Lowest Overall Tax Burden on Retirees?

Again, there is a lot to consider when trying to determine an overall tax burden, especially on retirees. But if you were to whittle down a list of a handful of states in which the tax burden is the absolute least on retirees? It would come down to the states with the overall smallest income tax burden, and a few other factors.

Delaware

Delaware hasn’t been discussed much, and though it does have state income taxes, a few other factors make it particularly appealing for retirees. Specifically, its state income tax rate tends to be relatively low (2.2% – 6.6%), and it has low property taxes, no sales taxes, and no applicable estate taxes.

Nevada

Nevada is a state with no state income taxes — a big win for retirees — and that also has relatively low property taxes, and no estate taxes. It also doesn’t tax income from most retirement accounts, or military retirement income.

Wyoming

Wyoming is similar to Nevada in that it has no state income taxes, low property taxes, and no estate taxes. There are applicable sales taxes, however, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the overall tax burdens seen in other states.

Can You Have Dual State Residency?

Generally, most people are residents of just one state. It is possible, however, to have dual residency in two different states. This can happen if you live in each state for part of the year to attend school, or to work.

For example, the state of Virginia distinguishes between residents who maintain a home in the state for 183 days or more during the year and domiciliary residents who claim Virginia as their legal state of residence. Under state law, it’s possible to be a resident of Virginia and a domiciliary resident of another state.

For instance, a college student from California who lives in Virginia during the school year would be a dual resident. However, you can have only one domicile — in this example, it would be California.

If you live and earn taxable income in two different states during the year, you may have to file tax returns in both those states unless a reciprocity agreement exists. Reciprocity agreements protect taxpayers who work in states other than the one in which they’re legal residents from being hit with double taxation.

What to Consider Before Moving to a Tax-Friendly State

Moving to a state that doesn’t tax pensions and Social Security could yield income tax savings, but it’s important to consider the bigger financial picture. Paying no or fewer income taxes on retirement benefits may not be much of a bargain if you’re stuck paying higher property taxes, or your heirs are left with steep inheritance taxes, for instance.

Also, consider the overall cost of living. If everyday essentials such as housing, food, and gas are higher in a state that has no income tax, then your retirement benefits may have less purchasing power overall. If costs end up being higher than you anticipated, you might end up working after retirement to fill any retirement income shortfalls.

The Takeaway

There are a number of states that tend to be more tax-friendly for retirees, and those generally include the states that don’t levy any income taxes. That list comprises states such as Alaska, Nevada, Texas, Florida, and Tennessee. But there are other potential taxes to take into consideration, and states all have different tax rules in regards to pensions, retirement accounts, capital gains, and more.

As such, if you’re hoping to save on taxes during retirement, you’ll need to do a little digging into the specifics to see what might affect you, given your unique financial picture. It’s wise to take into account other tax types as well (property taxes, etc.), and overall cost of living. Doing a thorough cost-benefit analysis before making a decision to move could be beneficial.

If you’re wondering about other ways to help make your retirement savings tax efficient, SoFi can help. With SoFi Invest, you can open a traditional or Roth IRA, and you can build, or add to your investment portfolio right from your smartphone or other device. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions (you can read the full fee schedule here), and SoFi members have access to complimentary advice from professionals.

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.

FAQ

What is the most tax-friendly state to retire in?

The most tax-friendly states for retirees are states that don’t tax pensions and Social Security, and have a low tax-profile overall for sales and property tax. Some of the best states for retirees who want to avoid high taxes include Alabama, the District of Columbia, Nevada, and Tennessee.

Which states have no 401(k) tax?

States that do not tax 401(k) distributions are generally the same states that don’t tax income. Those states include Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. New Hampshire and Washington don’t tax 401(k) distributions either.

Which states do not tax pensions?

States that do not tax pensions include the seven states that have no income tax — Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming — as well as New Hampshire and Washington. Additionally, five states — Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania — exclude pension income from state taxation.

How can I avoid paying taxes on retirement income?

The simplest way to avoid paying taxes on retirement income is to move to a state that has the smallest applicable tax burden on retirement income sources. That would include the short list of seven states that don’t have any sorts of state income tax. You can also consult a professional.

Which states are tax-free for Social Security?

There are a grand total of 37 states that don’t tax Social Security benefits, and that list includes the seven states that don’t tax income at all. Aside from those states, 29 others (and Washington, D.C.) do not, specifically, tax Social Security benefits.


Photo credit: iStock/RapidEye

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