- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2002

A friend of mine was taken by surprise during a recent interstate move by expenses he had not budgeted.

Just to change residence cost an additional $1,200 over selling, buying and moving expenses. Local taxes and registration costs were an expensive surprise, to say the least.

As you plan your next move across county, city or state lines, take a moment to visit one of many online cost-comparison calculators to determine the real expense or savings of moving from one jurisdiction to another. At the least, it will save you surprise and possibly even will save you money.

For instance, if you live in an income-tax-free state, a 10 percent raise to take a job in another state doesn't mean squat if that state has a 6 percent state income tax. Even more frustrating is moving into a city that piles on another income tax or a local sales tax (such as a meals or gas tax) that you don't "enjoy" now.

Your research on buying a home in your new location should include more than just shopping for bricks and mortar. The cost of living involves more than housing and could include higher taxes, higher utility fees, tolls, etc. Listed here are some items you need to consider and where to check for those expenses online.

Income taxes: Obviously, this is the big kahuna of expenses. The taxes you'll encounter can be voluminous. Politicians are very creative when it comes to raising revenue without having to produce anything for it, so look out. A great place to start with tax rates is to visit your state's Web site and then filter down to the county, city and township. A site called State & Local Government on the Net (www.statelocalgov.net/index.cfm) has great information. Click your state and click on down from there.

Once you get to the local Web site, search for tax information under headings such as "Tax Department," "Revenue," "Tax Administration," etc. The Federation of Tax Administrators has tables comparing tax rates across the country in Adobe Acrobat files (www.taxadmin.org).

Sales taxes: These guys can nibble away at your paycheck every day. Included here are sales taxes for consumables, groceries and household items; meals taxes; and gasoline taxes. In one state, your gas tax may be 10 cents per gallon, but your new dwelling place could charge double that amount. Doubling that one tax could cost you hundreds of dollars per year.

If you're not used to a meals tax, get ready for a surprise there, as well. Your taxes on eating out keep making that hot dog and fries seem a little more expensive. Instead of just the sales tax, now there's an additional 4 percent, 5 percent or even 10 percent charge on the meal that means if you have $20 in your pocket, you really can buy just about $18 worth of food the rest is for taxes (assuming you don't have to leave a tip, by the way).

Again, the Federation of Tax Administrators has charts and links to the different state tax amounts for these as well.

Service fees: If you have city or county trash pickup, get ready to pay for that service if you move into an area where the refuse management is farmed out to private industry. That's another monthly or quarterly fee worth hundreds of dollars per year. Other privatized services may cost your pocketbook as well.

A reminder for apartment dwellers moving into your own home: You should budget for monthly water and sewer bills as well, which usually are included in your rent.

What you pay for your electricity and gas now may not be what you can budget in your new state or jurisdiction. Price it out. Know your usage (listed on your bill each month) and price it in the new jurisdiction.

For energy price comparisons, visit the Department of Energy's newly redesigned Web site (www.energy.gov) and click on "Data & Prices."

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate for more than 12 years. Contact him by e-mail ([email protected]).

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