Why Do I Owe State Taxes?

Nobody likes paying taxes. If you paid nothing in Federal taxes this year, you might be surprised that you have to pay state taxes. But why would you owe state taxes when you owed nothing to the Federal government? It’s a difficult question and is one of the most common sources of confusion when it comes to paying taxes.

What is the Difference Between State and Federal Taxes?

Why do you owe state taxes? Before you can understand this, you need to know how the tax system works. Both the Federal government and all 50 states have the right to collect taxes. Currently, 43 states operate a state income tax system, with California charging a massive 13.3%.

State income tax brackets and earning thresholds differ not just from the Federal government but between each state. When you file your taxes, you’ll need to file a state tax return alongside your federal tax return if you live in any of the 43 states that assess income tax.

Why Do I Owe State Taxes?

So, “Why would I owe state taxes?”

The difference occurs due to the fact Federal and state governments have different tax brackets. While you may not qualify for Federal taxes, you may still qualify for state taxes. It could also occur because you withheld too little for state taxes, or your earnings changed your entitlements to certain tax credits, such as the Earned Income Credit. The way you itemize, or whether you take the standard deduction, could also affect whether you owe money to your state’s government.

Finally, if there was a major change in your circumstances, you could also be required to pay taxes to the state. Some examples include:

Any significant changes in your life could impact your tax liability. It’s important to get professional advice to ensure you’re not underpaying or overpaying.

Who Do You Owe State Taxes?

Now that you know the answer to the question, “Why do I owe state taxes this year?” you might be wondering, “Why do I owe the state money on my taxes?” The answer is quite simple. Your state uses those taxes to fund everything from school districts to the police. While seven states may not levy state income tax, they still gain this money in other ways, such as sales taxes.

Take Note: If you performed work in multiple states, you may not only owe state taxes to your state but to another state too.

Different Types of Taxes You Might Need to Pay

Figuring out why do I owe so much state taxes boils down to all the various taxes you might have to pay. Additional taxes typically arise from running a business.

Some examples of different types of taxes you might need to pay include:

Not every state will levy all the above taxes. You’ll need to speak to a tax accountant who can help you understand why do I owe money on my state tax return.

How to File State Taxes 

Now that we’ve gone over why do I owe so much in state taxes, you might be wondering how you pay them. First, your state income tax return must be filed alongside your Federal tax return. Both tax returns can be e-filed together. It’s no longer possible to e-file your state tax return before your Federal return. Filing is relatively simple as most of the same information you entered onto your Federal return will also need to be copied over onto your state tax return.

This is where you should hire a specialized tax accountant who understands the tax code of your state. You may be wondering, “Why do I owe state taxes every year?” but with a smart accountant, you may be able to avoid paying anything at all.

Like with your Federal return, be mindful of the deadlines. If you fail to file or pay up on time, your state’s tax agency can levy penalties and interest. But what happens if you’re stunned by the amount, and you’re asking. “Why do I owe so much in state taxes?” The answer is to pay anyway, and you can always file a dispute later if you believe you’ve overpaid.


The chances are you live in a state where you’re required to pay annual state taxes. Federal taxation is complicated enough, and state taxation can be even more complicated.

To help you understand the answer to  “why do I owe state taxes?” it’s a good idea to hire an accountant. Porte Brown has been helping citizens file their state tax returns for decades. For a professional team that understands the Illinois state taxation system inside and out, trust Porte Brown. We are a top Chicago CPA firm with a unique perspective on financial management solutions. 

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